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FEMA Must Take Additional Steps to Better Address Employee Allegations of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct

Executive Summary

FEMA does not always appropriately report and investigate employee allegations of sexual harassment and workplace sexual misconduct.  For FYs 2012 to 2018, we identified 305 allegations from FEMA employees potentially related to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct such as sexual assault, unwelcome sexual advances, and inappropriate sexual comments.  However, we were unable to determine whether FEMA properly handled 153 of these allegations, because it could not provide complete investigative and disciplinary files.  For allegations that had complete files available, at times we were unable to determine whether FEMA conducted an investigation.  Finally, we found FEMA did not document whether it investigated some sexual harassment EEO complaints as potential employee misconduct.  We attribute the inconsistent investigations and incomplete files to inadequate policies, processes, and training. These shortcomings may fuel employee perceptions that FEMA is not addressing sexual harassment and sexual misconduct and is not supportive of employees reporting that type of behavior.  We made five recommendations to improve FEMA’s handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations including establishing a comprehensive case management system; developing and implementing formal processes and procedures to appropriately address all harassment allegations; providing investigative training; and ensuring allegations are appropriately referred to DHS OIG.

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