Federal Workplace Sexual Harassment

We’ve all seen the headlines lately concerning allegations of inappropriate advances made by Brett Favre toward a female employee of the New York Jets, and of a reprisal of the long ago accusations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. While these are considered news, and scandalous headlines, the truth is sexual harassment is a fact of lives for people of all classes and in all professions.

A recently retired federal government executive has reported that sexual harassment cases are significantly under reported. Sexual harassment in any profession is a difficult topic for management to address. However, it is important that employers, especially on the federal level must be prepared to take action and protect their employees in order to create a high performing work environment.

A young federal employee has recently come forward with her story of sexual harassment. On the first day at her job, the young woman’s supervisor called her into his office and closed the door. He told her “I didn’t really hire you for this job,” and then kissed her. When the young woman reported this to her supervisor’s boss he reprimanded the supervisor. In response the supervisor told the woman that he would like to make it up to her and take her away for the weekend. Thankfully the supervisor is no longer working for the federal government, but who knows what office, what profession and what young victims he may be harassing now?
It is important that everyone in the workplace whether federal or otherwise understands the definition of sexual harassment as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

Report it any time you are in a position to observe, witness or be a victim of sexual harassment. Zero tolerance is the only approach to stop this behavior.