Rights among some of the nation’s greatest responsibilities

Women working for the government should have equal opportunities – both with career advancement and the ability to complete their job-related duties in peace. However, recent reports suggest that was not the shared experience of two females who worked with a former Pentagon official.

The Missile Defense Agency’s former executive director retired in February, during an investigation into alleged misconduct during his seven-year tenure. Allegations included unwelcomed massages, comments and photographs. And though the ex-official denied claims of harassment, he admitted to “a modicum of truth.”

Workplace harassment often goes unreported

The Department of Defense confirmed complaints of sexual harassment dating back to 2012. Yet, rather than accepting responsibility for his actions, the man in question shifted blame to a disgruntled employee who eventually quit working for the Agency.

Maltreated employees often internalize discriminatory acts rather than reporting them. Unfortunately, concerns about reporting workplace harassment can relate to factors such as:

  • Doubts about how seriously an employer will take allegations
  • Fear of retaliatory job loss
  • Possible professional misconception
  • Privacy concerns
  • Inadequate internal investigating

Such considerations may be amplified for federal workers, and rightfully so.

Discrimination reporting within federal workplaces

One would think the same legal protections for those working in the private sector would also apply to those reporting to government entities. Yet, reporting sexual harassment may be more difficult when earning a paycheck from the feds.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recognizes ineffective anti-harassment programs within federal organizations. As such, miscommunication or a lacked implementation may put public workers at a disadvantage.

A simultaneous report investigation and agency defense forces federal entities into a conflict of interest. Meanwhile, a formal internal complaint is necessary before EEOC involvement.

Other considerations include:

  • A 45-day reporting window following an incident
  • Minimal compensatory damages, as capped in 1991
  • Reputational damage in a world that thrives on peer recommendations

Despite concerns about potential repercussions, employees have the legal right to complete their job in a safe environment.

Contradictions may remain between the legislative powers that be and those dedicated to public service. Yet, leaders who represent the people can, and should, be governed accordingly.

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