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White House Sexual Harassment Policy Deemed Lacking

Politico recently published an article about the White House’s sexual harassment policy. Interviews with employment attorneys reveal a policy that does not meet the usual standards.

Under a 2002 law, the White House is not required to make public the number of sexual harassment complaints made, a requirement that is imposed on all other executive branch agencies. Politico was able to see a copy of the document given to new hires that address sexual harassment. It lists three “strategies for addressing discrimination:” “Talk to the individual about any behavior, actions or decisions that appear discriminatory; Discuss the situation or incident with an appropriate supervisor; See EEO counseling.”

Politico asked five employment attorneys to review the document. It was considered by all five to raise concerns. For one, it fails to identify the EEO officer to whom they should complain. The back of the handbook’s web address for further information was incorrect. An attorney that represents employers stated that the policy should make it very clear to employees who they go to if they need to complain. This failure may give the message that such complaints are not taken seriously. White House employees are not required to undergo sexual harassment training. The employer attorney interviewed stated, “If you’re the federal government, you should live by and model the best practices that you want the rest of the country to follow.” Thus, all employees and top managers should receive sexual harassment training.

The White House issued a statement to Politico stating their commitment to a workplace free from discriminatory behavior. “Providing the workforce vital information required to recognize and prevent one form of discriminatory behavior, in this case sexual harassment, is part of the Executive Office of the President’s ongoing commitment to educating its staff on broader Equal Employment Opportunity issues.”