A systemic failure has been found in the Department of Justice's (DOJ) handling of sexual harassment and misconduct complaints, according to the department's Office of Inspector General.
The watchdog unit, led by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, reports that employees accused of harassment and assault have been rewarded with bonuses and promotions, facing minimal disciplinary action as complaints have become increasingly more common over the past five years.
According to the Washington Post, two top lawyers in the DOJ's Civil Division have been accused of groping female colleagues, making inappropriate comments at work, and stalking women who worked in the division. Neither faced a drop in pay or a suspension, but were rather transferred to another office or disciplined by his superiors. One of the attorneys also recently received an award for his performance in the division.
At least one case involved "potential criminal assault violations," according to Horowitz, "yet we found no evidence in the case file that a referral was made to the [Inspector General] or any other law enforcement entity.”
"When employees engage in such misconduct, it profoundly affects the victim and affects the agency's reputation, undermines the agency's credibility, and lowers employee productivity and morale," Horowitz wrote. "Without strong action from the Department to ensure that DOJ employees meet the highest standards of conduct and accountability, the systemic issues we identified in our work may continue."
The Inspector General's report is the latest to detail the prevalence of sexual harassment at the top levels of the federal government, and the failure of officials to hold perpetrators accountable. As the #MeToo movement spread across social media in recent months, reports of widespread sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill surfaced, as did accounts of a taxpayer-funded "hush fund" that was used by the government to cover keep accusers from going public.
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Reports of sexual misconduct at the DOJ pre-date the #MeToo movement that spread across government and other industries in recent months. The Inspector General sent a memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May about the prevalence of the problem and the systemic lack of accountability for those accused of misconduct.
On social media, attorneys and supporters of the recent coverage of the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace expressed relief that the Inspector General was calling attention to the issue at the DOJ, and noted that the behavior is widespread in the legal community.
It’s not just DOJ. It’s every part of the legal industry. Sexual harassment and assault is just swept under the rug. It’s accepted and expected behavior of men. And it needs to stop. https://t.co/mv0Ry9303w— Sara Elizabeth Dill (@SEDLAW15) December 26, 2017