Sexual Harassment Policy of the Department of the Interior

General Statement

The Department of the Interior (DOI or Department) will not tolerate sexual harassment. All persons who work at the DOI have a responsibility to help maintain a work environment that is free from sexual harassment. Sexual Harassment is prohibited in any location that can be reasonably regarded as an extension of the workplace, such as any customer location, an off-site social business function, or any other non-DOI facility where DOI business is being conducted and discussed. This policy applies equally to harassment of and by gay and lesbian employees.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines "sexual harassment" as unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or sexually offensive work environment.

(Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations Part 1604.11 (a).

Determining what constitutes sexual harassment depends upon the specific facts and the context in which the conduct occurs. Sexual harassment may take many forms - subtle and indirect, or blatant and overt.

For example,

  • It may be conduct toward an individual of the opposite sex or the same sex.      

  • It may occur between peers or between individuals in a hierarchical relationship.      

  • It may be aimed at coercing an individual to participate in an unwanted sexual relationship or it may have the effect of causing an individual to change behavior or work performance.

  • It may consist of repeating actions or may even arise from a single incident if sufficiently egregious. 

Sanctions for Policy Violations

All employees are subject to this policy. Individuals who violate this policy maybe subject to discipline ranging from a written warning up to and including discharge or other appropriate sanction.
Prompt Attention

Reports of sexual harassment are taken seriously and will be dealt with promptly. The specific action taken in any particular case depends on the nature and gravity of the conduct reported, and may include intervention, mediation, investigation, and the initiation of disciplinary processes as discussed more fully below. Where sexual harassment is found to have occurred, Bureau Managers will act to stop the harassment, act to prevent it's recurrence, and discipline where appropriate, those responsible.

Confidentiality

We recognize that confidentiality is important. The Bureau Equal Opportunity Officer and others responsible to implement this policy will respect the confidentiality and privacy of individuals reporting or accused of sexual harassment to the extent reasonably possible. Examples of situations where confidentiality cannot be maintained include circumstances when the complaint is filed formally, when we are required by law to disclose information (such as in response to legal process), and when disclosure is required by the Department's outweighing interest in protecting the rights of others.

Protection Against Reprisals

It is unlawful to retaliate against an employee for filing a compliant of sexual harassment or for cooperating in an investigation of a complaint for sexual harassment. The Department will not tolerate reprisal against an individual who in good faith reports or provides information in an investigation about behavior that may violate this policy. Intentionally providing false information, however, maybe grounds for discipline.

Every employee has a right to report sexual harassment without fear of reprisal. Acts of reprisal against an individual should be reported immediately. Reprisal occurs if someone threatens an employee or his or her career because the employee filed a complaint or discussed an issue with a supervisor, the EEO Official, or other officials in the agency.

Expedited Process

Employees may bring allegations of sexual harassment immediately to the attention of the local, regional or Bureau EEO Officer and/or full-time EEO counselor for priority consideration, The EEO professional must immediately meet/discuss the alleged incident with the employee and then bring the matter to the immediate attention of the highest appropriate management official at the site where the incident arose. The manager will order an immediate, expedited inquiry into the facts of the incident. Upon receipt of the inquiry report, if warranted, the senior manager shall take immediate corrective action, including appropriate disciplinary action.

EEO Counseling and Alternate Dispute Resolution

The Expedited Process described above may take the place of the informal counseling period required by 29 CFR 1614.106. If the matter is not addressed through the expedited process, the employee must bring the alleged sexual harassment to the attention of the EEO Counselor within 45 days of the matter, prior to filing a formal complaint of discrimination against the agency. During the expedited process or EEO Counseling, the Bureau may use their alternate dispute resolution process to facilitate early resolution. To locate an EEO Counselor, check your employee Bulletin Boards, the local area network, or contact your Bureau EEO Officer for assistance.

Specific Examples

Any of these elements may constitute sexual harassment or discrimination. These examples are not meant to be all inclusive.

  • Physical Contact
  • Squeezing a worker's shoulders or putting a hand around his or her waist
  • Gestures, such as puckering one's lips suggestively or making obscene signs with one's fingers or hands.
  • Telling off-color jokes.
  • Pictures of a sexual nature
  • Pin-ups, particularly those of scantily-clad individuals
  • Comments of a sexual nature
  • Terms of Endearment, such as calling a co-worker "honey," "dear," "sweetheart," or some similar expression. (The effect is the primary issue rather that intent. Even if the person "means nothing to you" or you have "used the term for years" you should be aware that such expressions are inappropriate.)
  • Questionable Compliments, such as "Nice legs!" "You look hot in that outfit!" (Compliments like these can make individuals feel uncomfortable or worse. Even if the person who received the "compliment" is not disturbed by it others may be.
Employee Responsibility

The Recipient

  • Consider using an informal method of resolution if the behavior was minor. Only use this method if you feel it will permanently stop the offensive behavior without reprisal and you feel the offender should be given a chance to change.

  • Consider filing a formal complaint with the Bureau EEO Officer if the incident and behavior is serious, unacceptable, or repeated (especially after telling the offender to stop). Serious behaviors may include asking for sexual favors in return for a good performance appraisal.

The Offending Person

  • Stop the behavior immediately!
  • If you feel you may have sexually harassed someone, take immeidate action to rectify the situation.
  • Apologize. Ask another person or supervisor for advice and accompany you to the recipient, or intervene on your behalf.
  • Talk to the recipient and discuss how you can communicate more effectively.
  • If a formal complaint has been filed, seek legal counsel or assistance to understand your rights.
  • Avoid any appearance of reprisal whether direct or indirect.
  • Seek help from someone that can assist you in getting on track, such as clergy or family.
  • Take responsibility to see that sexual harassment is stopped and that there is no reprisal.

The Friend or Co-Worker

  • If you are approached by a friend or co-worker who feels he or she has been discriminated against or sexually harassed, take action.
  • Encourage the recipient to approach the offending person directly or use other informal resolution.
  • Offer to accompany the recipient to the offending person, the Bureau EO Officer or senior manager to file a formal complaint.
  • Take responsibility to see that sexual harassment is stopped and there is no reprisal.

The Supervisor

  • If you observe or are approached about discrimination or sexual harassment, take action.
  • Advise the person who was offended of his or her right to seek help through the Bureau EO Officer.
  • Advise the offending person to stop immediately.
  • Act promptly and take corrective action if you supervise the offending individual.
  • Warn all parties immediately against behavior which may look like direct or indirect reprisal.
  • Take responsibility to see that sexual harassment is stopped and that there is no reprisal.

Where to File A Complaint

You may file a formal complaint concerning sexual harassment or discrimination at any of the following offices:

  • Secretary of the Interior
  • Director, Office for Equal Opportunity, Office of the Secretary
  • Bureau Director
  • Bureau Equal Opportunity Officer