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OIG: FEMA Did Not Always Appropriately Report and Investigate Sexual Harassment Allegations

One-third (255 of 765) of the employees who responded to OIG's questionnaire indicated they had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, but they did not report it because they did not believe the allegations would be investigated. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not always appropriately report and investigate employee allegations of sexual harassment and workplace sexual misconduct, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found. 

For FYs 2012 to 2018, the watchdog identified 305 allegations from FEMA employees potentially related to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct such as sexual assault, unwelcome sexual advances, and inappropriate sexual comments. However, OIG was unable to determine whether FEMA properly handled 153 of these allegations, because it could not provide complete investigative and disciplinary files. For allegations that had complete files available, OIG said it was at times unable to determine whether FEMA conducted an investigation. 

Finally, the review found that FEMA did not document whether it reviewed some sexual harassment-related Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints to determine whether potential employee misconduct occurred. OIG attributed the inconsistent investigations and incomplete files to inadequate policies, processes, and training. 

One-third (255 of 765) of the employees who responded to OIG’s questionnaire indicated they had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, but they did not report it because they did not believe the allegations would be investigated. 

OIG’s report recommended that FEMA:

  • Establish a case management system for collection, tracking, disposition, and reporting of all employee misconduct investigations and disciplinary actions. 
  • Develop and implement formal operations, processes, and procedures to ensure FEMA timely addresses all harassment allegations within established timeframes. 
  • Develop and implement formal processes and procedures to ensure allegations of egregious harassment raised in EEO complaints can be referred to OPR for separate, potential misconduct review at the discretion of the OER director. 
  • Provide consistent basic training for all employees who conduct misconduct inquiries and investigations. 
  • Create procedures to ensure criminal allegations are appropriately referred to DHS OIG. 

OIG is satisfied that FEMA has already completed work to address concerns and has closed some of the recommendations.

Read the full report at OIG

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