After several career employees at the Department of State made complaints that a member of the Senior Executive Service was creating a hostile work environment, the agency failed to address employee concerns or hold the executive accountable, according to a letter sent to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
“Several career employees at the State Department, including one of my constituents, have written to me raising serious allegations that the Department has repeatedly failed to eliminate the hostile work environment created by a member of the SES,” Cummings wrote.
“The employees allege that he ‘has a long history of brutalizing female and minority staff’ and ‘creates a climate of fear.’ The employees complain of ‘daily humiliation and denigration,’ ‘unwarranted accusations of poor performance,’ and ‘denied resources to perform our jobs’ that have led to ‘immeasurable losses’ by the employees.”
Cummings called on Tillerson to have the State Department compile an itemized list of complaints against the SES employee, including the date of filing, base of the complaint, date when the complaint advanced through formal and informal steps, whether the complaint resulted in any findings or settlements and the terms of any settlements made.
Cummings also called for the Department to determine the number of SES employees against whom more than one informal or formal complaint has been filed in the last five years.
The State Department has until Feb. 1, 2018, to produce such information.
This is not the first time the State Department has been called out in 2018 for failing to address serious personnel issues within the agency. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote a letter to Tillerson and USAID administrator Mark Green on Jan. 17, 2018, claiming that the Department has been too slow to address issues of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.
“At a moment in our country when we are being reminded anew of the scope and challenges of sexual harassment in the workplace, we are rededicating ourselves here in the Senate to addressing this issue in our own ranks. The legislative branch faces similar challenges, and that while we work to address them, we expect the same from the executive branch agencies,” the senators wrote.
The Senate letter called for better training and processes for reporting cases of sexual assault in the national security community.
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.