When an employee working in the private sector is the victim of sexual harassment, a federal agency, namely the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), plays a role in trying to ameliorate the situation; and it is empowered to allow the employee to take action in civil court. But if you are an employee working within the federal government, often, sexual harassment is a major problem which is being consistently ignored.
The National Park Service, a Prime Example of Sexual Harassment Run Amuck
The Department of the Interior released a report indicating that female employees working for the National Park Service have been (i) sexually harassed for years, (ii) park and regional administrators knew about the harassment, and (iii) management failed to take meaningful action to stop it. In 2016 alone, over sixty current and former Park Service employees contacted local news publications to describe their harrowing experiences, according to The Atlantic. These federal employees were quite diverse, ranging from park rangers and scientists, to superintendents and a former Park Service Director. The affected employees also ranged in age from 23 to 70.
Factors for as to Why the Federal Agencies Failed to Timely Address these Sexual Harassment Issues.
Multiple factors contributed to the lack of immediate action and remediation, such as:
- An overly complex internal process for reporting and investigating sexual harassment complaints;
- A culture of “machismo” within the agency; and
- Stories of retaliation being taken against employees who had the strength to speak out.
“They really have no reporting mechanism,” said a former Park Services employee to The Atlantic. Employees are told to talk to their supervisor if they are harassed. But what happens if that supervisor fails to take action or simply shrugs it off as a misunderstanding? At that point, the employee feels like they hit a brick wall and have no further recourse.
Overly Complex Internal Reporting Process
A federal employee who decides to file an informal complaint must first contact an EEO counselor. For the Federal Park Service, this is typically an employee who volunteers for the EEO Counselor position. The number of counselors is woefully inadequate. There are less than fifty counselors to assist Park Service employees, which total 23,000.
If the employee can contact a counselor, the counselor is empowered to talk to both the complainant and the accused; and the counselor may attempt to resolve the issue informally. The parties have the right to go through mediation. If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome, the employee can then file a formal complaint. That complaint is then investigated by a superior within the department. Once the investigation is completed, the complainant is entitled to a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge. If the complainant is not satisfied at that point, they can sue the Department in federal court (because federal agencies are governed by federal law, not state law, filing in federal court is necessary). This process can take well over a year. All the while, the harasser is going on with their life. The struggle is wholly on the complainant.
Why You Need an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Sexual Harassment Attorney
As you can see, taking action against a supervisor or co-worker who sexually harassed you can be a complex process. This is why you need an experienced labor and employment law attorney working on your behalf. The office of Mark J. Berkowitz, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale is here to help. They provide effective legal and practical strategies for dealing with sexual harassment claims. Call Mark J. Berkowitz, P.A., a Fort Lauderdale sexual harassment attorney, at (954) 527-0570.