The Justice Department’s internal watchdog issued a damning report Thursday outlining what it called “systemic issues” in how it handles sexual harassment allegations levied against department employees.
“Although there were few reported allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the Civil Division … we identified significant weaknesses in the Civil Division’s tracking, reporting and investigating of the 11 sexual harassment and misconduct allegations that we reviewed, as well as inconsistencies among penalties imposed for substantiated allegations,” the report said.
The inspector general’s office initiated a review of the department’s policies back in 2015 after the office received a complaint that the Civil Division had failed to properly discipline an attorney for sexual misconduct.
Thursday’s report goes on to detail several specific cases of harassment at the department — including a senior attorney who admitted to “stalking” another attorney and hacking into her personal email account, and another who allegedly “peeped” at a mother nursing in a closed room.
“In substantiated cases for which the available records allowed us to evaluate the imposed penalties, we determined that the outcomes generally did not consist of more than a written reprimand, title change, and reassignment in cases in which the subjects of the allegations were supervisory/senior attorneys,” the report found.
“Even in cases that implied criminal behavior, the Civil Division chose not to impose more serious discipline, report the allegations to the OIG, or conduct further investigation.”
Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz further wrote in a letter to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that he was “troubled to learn that subjects of pending sexual misconduct investigations or individuals who had been recently disciplined for sexual misconduct still received performance awards.”
“(W)e found three instances in which a Civil Division employee received a performance award while a sexual harassment or misconduct investigation was ongoing or while disciplinary actions for such misconduct were in effect,” wrote Horowitz.
“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,” he added.
Rosenstein said in a statement Thursday that the department will review the inspector general’s recommendations and “consider whether additional guidance is required to ensure that all misconduct allegations are handled appropriately, in support of our goal of a workplace in which everyone is treated fairly.”
“It is fortunate that there are relatively few substantiated incidents of sexual harassment, but even one incident is too many,” he said.