Home / World News / Inspector general says mishandling of sexual harassment complaints at Justice Department is a “systemic” problem – The Denver Post

Inspector general says mishandling of sexual harassment complaints at Justice Department is a “systemic” problem – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has “systemic” problems in how it handles sexual harassment complaints, with those found to have acted improperly often not receiving appropriate punishment, and the issue requires “high level action,” according to the department’s inspector general.

Justice supervisors have mishandled complaints, the IG said, and some perpetrators were given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards. At the same time, the number of allegations of sexual misconduct has been increasing over the past five years and the complaints have involved senior Justice Department officials across the country.

The cases examined by the IG’s office include a U.S. attorney who had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and sent harassing texts and emails when it ended; a Civil Division lawyer who groped the breasts and buttocks of two female trial attorneys; and a chief deputy U.S. marshal who had sex with “approximately” nine women on multiple occasions in his U.S. Marshals Service office, according to investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request.

“We’re talking about presidential appointees, political appointees, FBI special agents in charge, U.S. attorneys, wardens, a chief deputy U.S. marshal, a U.S. marshal assistant director, a deputy assistant attorney general,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in an interview.

On May 31 – before the issue exploded into the national consciousness – Horowitz sent a memo about sexual harassment to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

“When employees engage in such misconduct, it profoundly affects the victim and affects the agency’s reputation, undermines the agency’s credibility, and lowers employee productivity and morale,” Horowitz wrote. “Without strong action from the Department to ensure that DOJ employees meet the highest standards of conduct and accountability, the systemic issues we identified in our work may continue.”

Rosenstein said he would review the IG’s memo and consider whether additional guidance to Justice employees was required to ensure all misconduct allegations are handled appropriately.

“It is fortunate that there are relatively few substantiated incidents of sexual harassment, but even one incident is too many,” Rosenstein said in a statement at the time.

When contacted by The Post, Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said Rosenstein has convened a working group to consider the issues raised by Horowitz and will soon respond to the IG with recommendations.

In August, a group of 17 Justice Department employees also wrote Rosenstein, saying that some of them had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at the department. In the letter, the DOJ Gender Equality Network, which has hundreds of members throughout the department, said it wanted to help Rosenstein’s office formulate steps to achieve a “zero tolerance” environment.

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