HR

How the congressional workplace can better address harassment

Legislation passed in 2018 required the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights — which is responsible for enforcing fair employment and occupational safety for legislative branch employees — to improve its processes for addressing workplace harassment and discrimination.

According to a Dec. 30 Government Accountability Office report, however, OCWR has implemented a majority of the requirements outlined in the law, but it has not established and maintained a program for the permanent retention of records.

“The Reform Act required OCWR to establish and maintain a permanent records retention program, which includes records of preliminary reviews, mediations, hearings and other proceedings. Since November 2017, OCWR has operated under an interim records retention policy that requires it to permanently keep all records,” the report said.

“According to OCWR, it is not destroying or deleting any records. OCWR’s interim permanent records retention policy states that OCWR will establish standards and procedures for records integrity, privacy and confidentiality. However, as of October 2019, about 4 months after this requirement became effective, OCWR had not developed these standards or established other policies or procedures for maintaining a permanent records retention program other than the interim policy.”

The report also found that OCWR has further opportunities to incorporate better management practices into its handling of harassment and discrimination, such as developing procedures to address the risks that come with permanently storing records, establishing performance targets and milestones and monitoring the effectiveness of their work.

OCWR also stopped implementing changes and improvements to its IT planning, which GAO said could leave the office “less able to carry out its strategic initiatives.”

The report recommended that the OCWR develop a schedule of tasks to be developed, documented and updated throughout the lifetime of IT system projects; identify and assess risks associated with keeping permanent records; identify desired performance results; collect data to determine the effectiveness of harassment education and outreach efforts; integrate IT planning into the office’s overall strategic planning; and incorporate human management practices into that strategic planning.

OCWR agreed with the GAO report’s findings and recommendations.

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