In 2016 and 2016, a female faculty member and lieutenant commander at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, filed a complaint about harassment and bullying by supervisors based on her race and gender. The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has just released a report finding that the Academy not only failed to respond properly but also retaliated against her.
When two firefighters brought an age discrimination suit against their tiny fire district, the fire district defended itself by saying that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) didn't apply. According to its reading of the law, only employers with at least 20 employees were covered, and it didn't meet that threshold. The firefighters argued that the 20-employee threshold only applies to private-sector employers. This jurisdictional question was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
In 2012, the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), an advocacy group for female soldiers, filed a lawsuit challenging a 1994 Pentagon policy barring women from serving in combat roles. That policy kept women from serving in 238,000 positions in the military.
According to a letter submitted by members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General received a sexual misconduct complaint against FEMA's then chief component human capital officer (CHCO) on May 1, 2017. By that time, FEMA employees had already filed eight complaints against the CHCO alleging non-sexual misconduct since 2001, along with 14 complaints that referenced him. Yet an investigation into the sexual misconduct complaint didn't begin until December 2017.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long recently issued a statement saying that FEMA's former chief component human capital officer (CHCO) had been the subject of an internal investigation before he resigned on June 18. That years-long investigation, Long said, revealed "lapses in professional responsibility" that he called "deeply disturbing."
A report by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector general highlights a gender inequity problem in all four of the department's law enforcement components: The FBI, the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshalls Service. The review found women to be underrepresented in operational positions generally and even more so in leadership. Unfortunately, male staff seemed unaware of the problem.
Last year's State of the Judiciary speech by Chief Justice John Roberts came shortly after 15 women accused veteran jurist Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit of ongoing sexual harassment and misconduct. Kozinski has since retired.
Sexual harassment in the workplace has become a hot-button issue in many fields, including the federal sector. While workplace sexual harassment is currently the most widely discussed form of gender-based discrimination, two recent lawsuits have brought attention to one that is not as widely known: Pregnancy discrimination.
Last week, the Department of Justice issued new directives to address sexual harassment in its workplaces. Some complain, however, that the policies invite uneven application from section to section, and that could mean leaving victims of harassment and assault unprotected.
Last year, the average time a federal employee waited for a resolution of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint was 543 days. The reasons include a large backlog, a shortage of funding, perhaps a lack of leadership -- and the #MeToo movement, which has prompted a flood of new complaints to the agency.