December 01, 2022

Grassley, Durbin Urge DHS to Address High Volume of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Reports

New letter follows DHS announcement from June promising ‘significant reforms’

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are seeking information from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on steps being taken to reduce an alarming number of sexual harassment and misconduct reports. The issue stems from a DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) survey, which found 6,774 employees – a quarter of the DHS workforce surveyed between 2011 and 2018 – agreed that sexual harassment occurred “frequently” or “sometimes.” The survey results came to light after the DHS OIG allegedly attempted to suppress the report. DHS formed the working group after the survey results were published by news outlets.
 
“We are concerned about DHS OIG’s handling of this survey, and we recognize that you responded by establishing a working group to examine sexual harassment at DHS. Given the seriousness of the issues raised by the survey, Congress requires details with respect to the working group’s examination. Accordingly, we write today to seek information regarding the working group’s established mission, findings, and recommendations,” the senators wrote.
 
The survey found over 10,000 DHS employees experienced sexual harassment or misconduct but 8,148 did not file reports. It also found only about one third of respondents marked “strongly agree” when asked if the department informs employees about what constitutes sexual harassment or misconduct in the workplace.
 
“Simply put, the numbers are beyond unacceptable and demand immediate changes. The new working group was assigned to the Department’s General Counsel, and it was tasked with a 45-day review of the employee misconduct discipline processes at DHS and providing recommendations for improvements. ” the senators continued. “DHS has indicated that the recommended changes are already underway; however, we are seeking specific details on the steps you have taken and the reforms you have implemented to end the scourge of misconduct within your department.”
 
Specifically, Grassley and Durbin ask DHS to explain which recommendations have been implemented, what policy changes will be made and how the department plans to address specific allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
 
Full text of the letter is available HERE.
 
Throughout this year, Grassley and Durbin have repeatedly pressed DHS OIG to address reports that it delayed and downplayed reports of sexual harassment and misconduct at DHS.
 
Grassley recently raised similar concerns about the FBI’s response to sexual misconduct among its employees and inconsistent punishments for such behavior.

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