Prevention and Elimination of Harassing Conduct

Personnel Bulletin 18-01 Prevention and Elimination of Harassing Conduct established a comprehensive anti-harassment program for the Department. Issuance of this policy was another critical step in ensuring that the Department is fully prepared to address all forms of harassment, including those reported in the Work Environment Survey conducted by the Department in 2017. 

The Department is committed to providing a work environment free of discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, genetic information (including family medical history), status as a parent, marital status, or political affiliation, and free from illegal retaliation. The Department will not tolerate offensive sexual or non-sexual harassing behavior against any Department employee, intern, volunteer, contractor, non-Federal employee, visitor, or other member of the public. The Department also will not tolerate adverse treatment of employees because they report harassing conduct or provide information related to such reports.

The primary goals of the policy are to:

  • Provide a work environment free from harassment by ensuring that appropriate officials are notified of, and have the opportunity to promptly correct, harassing conduct;
  • Communicate clearly that the Department will not tolerate sexual or non-sexual harassing behavior; and
  • Address harassing conduct and hold employees accountable at the earliest possible stage, before the conduct becomes “severe or pervasive,” i.e., harassment within the meaning of anti-discrimination law.

The policy achieves these goals by:

  • Defining unacceptable conduct that violates the policy;
  • Outlining the rights and responsibilities of employees, supervisors, and managers; and
  • Establishing reporting procedures and accountability measures.

Prohibited Harassing Conduct

The conduct prohibited by this policy includes, but is broader than, the legal definitions of unlawful discrimination under EEO laws, which include harassment and sexual harassment, in order to ensure appropriate officials are notified of, and can promptly correct, harassing conduct before it escalates to the level of unlawful discrimination/harassment.

Harassing conduct prohibited by this policy is defined as:

Unwelcome conduct, verbal or physical, including intimidation, ridicule, insult, comments, or physical conduct, that is based on an individual’s protected status or protected activities under this policy, when the behavior can reasonably be considered to adversely affect the work environment, or an employment decision affecting the employee is based upon the employee’s acceptance or rejection of such conduct.

Protected status is defined as:

An individual’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, family medical history (including genetic information), status as a parent, marital status, or political affiliation.

Protected activity include:

Reporting harassing conduct, discrimination or retaliation; filing a claim of harassment; providing evidence in any investigation; or intervening to protect others who may have suffered harassing conduct, discrimination or retaliation.

The Department will take prompt and appropriate corrective action, including appropriate disciplinary action, to eliminate harassing conduct regardless of whether the conduct rises to the level of a violation of law. Therefore, the goal is to address harassing conduct at the earliest possible stage, before it can become “severe or pervasive,” i.e., harassment within the meaning of anti-discrimination law.

Employees are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including removal, for engaging in harassing conduct while in the workplace or in any work-related situation, including while on official travel. Off-duty misconduct may subject an employee to potential discipline if the misconduct is likely to have an adverse effect on the agency (e.g., harassing a co-worker, contractor, visitor, or volunteer during off-duty hours).

Employee Expectations

The Department cannot correct harassing conduct if a supervisor, manager, or other Department official is not aware of it. Reporting harassing conduct allows management to intervene and stop harassing conduct from continuing. As a result, any employee who has been subjected to harassing conduct is encouraged to report the matter to:

  • the supervisor of the employee engaging in the misconduct;
  • any other supervisor or other management official;
  • the servicing Human Resources office; or
  • the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Employees who know of or witness possible harassing conduct directed at others are expected to report the matter to any of the officials or offices listed above. Supervisors and managers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report harassing conduct under this policy. In addition, all employees must refrain from engaging in harassing conduct, participate in any required training, and fully cooperate in any inquiry or investigation.

Management Duty to Act

Supervisors or managers who observe or are informed of allegations of harassing conduct must comply with the specific procedural requirements and time frames detailed in the policy. Supervisors and managers must:

  • report the conduct/allegations to the appropriate officials, even if the employee raising the allegation requests confidentiality;
  • ensure that a prompt, objective, and thorough investigation is conducted; and
  • take steps to ensure that the harassing conduct is appropriately addressed to deter further misconduct, including taking disciplinary action, if appropriate.

Appropriate corrective action, disciplinary or otherwise, up to and including removal, will be taken against any supervisor or other management official who fails to perform their obligations as set forth in this policy, including any failure to report known violations of this policy.

Distinction from Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Other Procedures

The purpose of this policy is to stop harassing conduct that has occurred and deter its occurrence in the future. This policy and its reporting procedures are separate and distinct from the EEO process, which focuses on making employees whole after they have experienced unlawful discrimination (including harassment) by issuing remedial relief, such as compensatory damages. This policy does not replace an employee’s EEO or other rights, including rights to file negotiated or administrative grievances and other appeals. Filing a report under this policy does not satisfy the requirements for filing an EEO complaint, negotiated or administrative grievance, or other procedure and obtaining remedies pursuant to them, nor does it delay the time limits for initiating any of those procedures.

Resources for Employees Who Have Experienced Harassing Conduct

There are multiple resources available to employees who have experienced or witnessed harassing conduct.  However, engaging with these resources does not constitute a report under PB 18-01, as these entities do not have an obligation to inform management of allegations of harassing conduct. 

  • Ombuds/CORE PLUS neutrals. Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution (CADR) ombuds work independently from management’s chain of command and are impartial. CORE PLUS neutrals are qualified, certified providers of conflict management and alternative dispute resolution services. Conversations with ombuds and other CORE PLUS neutrals are confidential and informal and provide managers and employees a safe place to explore options for addressing individual or organizational concerns. Ombuds and CORE PLUS neutrals are not obliged to report discussions (outside of imminent risk of harm).
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The DOI EAP is an employee benefit program that helps employees with personal and/or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, and mental and emotional well-being. 
  • Victim Assistance Program. The Department's Office of Law Enforcement and Security or Bureau law enforcement office’s Victim Assistance Program provides general information about rights and services available for victims of crime. Contact your local Bureau/Office law enforcement personnel.
  • Union Representative. Employees who are covered by a bargaining unit can consult with a union representative. Contact your servicing HR office for Union Representative contact information.

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