The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

32 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Inspector General report, “Review of the Department of State Disciplinary Process,” put it. As OIG noted, the process “can involve a half dozen department offices and non-department agencies, department and non-department appeals entities and investigative entities, private attorneys, unions and professional associations, and the charged employee.” The Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) is the starting point for complaints of harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, race, age or other identity factors. S/OCR handles formal complaints filed under the Equal Employment Opportunity law, in addition to overseeing the administrative inquiry process that is required when the office receives any allegation of sexual or racial harassment. Formal EEO complaints, which carry a much higher burden of proof, are fewer. But under the FAM any allega- tion of sexual (or racial) harassment can and must be reported to S/OCR, and that office is mandated to conduct an administrative inquiry into the allegations that could lead to disciplinary action. On receiving a complaint of sexual or racial harassment, S/OCR conducts an investigation and, in turn, submits a “Report of Investigation,” without a recommendation, for evaluation and action to four offices: (1) Human Resources/Employee Relations/Conduct, Suitability and Discipline (HR/ER/CSD); (2) Diplomatic Security; (3) the executive office of the relevant bureau; and (4) post management, depending on the complain- ant’s location and hiring category. Sexual assault complaints, which are matters of criminal law, are referred immediately to DS for investigation, and DS handles any other complaints that have security clearance implications. During the last several years cases pursued and disciplinary action taken through the administrative inquiry process have increased significantly. In the last five years the Foreign Ser- vice Grievance Board (the last forum for appeal of department administrative sanctions by members of the Foreign Service) has denied appeals filed by employees facing discipline for inappro- priate comments, inappropriate behavior and poor judgment. Such cases have involved, for instance, an officer who “made sexually inappropriate remarks and engaged in offensive touch- ing behaviors”; an officer whose unwanted attentions drove a locally employed (LE) staff member to seek resignation; an engineer who harassed a contractor; and a management officer who harassed LE staff, local contract staff and household staff. Generally the grievants in these cases outranked their victim(s). While the department is cracking down on inappropriate sexual comments, language and behavior, nothing has been done to shield the complainants or victims from gossip, profes- sional repercussions and potentially more serious consequences. Further, the OIG report on State’s disciplinary process cited previously noted—though acknowledging efforts to address the issue—that as of November 2014 the lack of consistent, common tracking and reporting across the disciplinary system could result in a wide variation in times to resolution and consistent state- ments of decision. The combination of complex processes, inadequate account- ability at senior levels, a lack of training and other issues means that repeat offenders can continue to abuse. I volunteered to escort congressional delegation members to the airport as they were departing from an official visit to post. I arrived at their hotel on a Saturday morning about half an hour before our scheduled departure and was waiting in the lobby when I noticed the congressman at the bar. I went over and introduced myself, and let him know that we needed to leave in 30 minutes. He put his arm around my shoulder and asked if I wanted a drink. “No, thank you,” I told him and tried to pull away. He pulled me closer, wrapped his arm a little tighter and said, more insistently, “C’mon, have a cocktail. He can put orange juice in it; it’s like breakfast.” I declined again and pulled away more firmly. After several refusals, and his continued insis- tence, I finally said, “I can’t drink. I’m still nurs- ing my youngest.”With his hand still on my arm, he turned to me, pulled me closer, looked pointedly down my shirt and said, “Oh yeah, wow, I can see that.” In an institution where “corridor reputation” drives assignments and opportunity, the cost of being a troublemaker was high, and the professional consequences grave. # #StateToo