October 6, 2022

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Sexual Harassment: Options Remain for VA to Improve Program Composition, Procedures, and Knowledge Selection

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What GAO Observed

The Section of Veterans Affairs (VA) has taken ways to boost its initiatives to stop and tackle sexual harassment, but could realign its organizational composition, even more strengthen policies, and better evaluate info. Most notably, VA has not taken adequate motion in reaction to our two precedence recommendations on its composition for equivalent employment option (EEO). GAO’s 2020 report designed 7 suggestions for VA to deal with elements of company policies and grievance procedures that might have hindered agency initiatives to beat sexual harassment. VA has applied two of these suggestions and five involve further action to be thoroughly executed. For example, VA has:

  • Formalized its Harassment Prevention Application (HPP) and current teaching products. VA executed two recommendations from GAO’s 2020 report. First, VA formalized its HPP, which seeks to prevent harassment and address it right before it will become unlawful. In March 2022, VA finalized its HPP Handbook that outlines essential processes the company should observe in addressing sexual harassment allegations. 2nd, VA has created new required instruction that incorporates extra facts on sexual harassment and the reporting procedures offered to personnel.
  • Not yet realigned its EEO organizational composition to prevent potential conflicts of desire. GAO made two suggestions to support tackle opportunity conflicts of fascination neither has been totally carried out. For illustration, VA’s EEO Director proceeds to oversee both equally EEO complaint procedures and typical personnel capabilities. According to the Equivalent Work Prospect Commission—the company tasked to be certain company compliance with EEO requirements—this observe does not adhere to a single of its essential directives to make certain honest complaint processing.
  • Not nevertheless fully reviewed insurance policies and information and facts documents to guarantee consistency. GAO observed some guidelines and information and facts files were being not regular with the overarching sexual harassment policy and some have out-of-date or missing information. VA claimed it is producing treatments to help be certain all insurance policies are complete and accurate across VA, but has not nonetheless completed its efforts.
  • Not but done efforts to collect and evaluate comprehensive info on sexual harassment. GAO located that VA lacked a entire picture of sexual harassment at VA due to the fact it did not have to have professionals to report all grievances nor had it assessed other offered facts. VA now needs supervisors to report all issues, and it produced a tracking system to capture this details. On the other hand, VA has not assessed data on these issues or finalized plans for examining other available details.
  • Not yet made obvious requirements for proof needed to make sure corrective steps were being taken. GAO discovered that VA did not call for documentation of corrective steps taken in all sexual harassment conditions. VA has because begun tracking some of these corrective steps. Even so, VA has not however evidently specified to professionals the strategies for documenting corrective actions.

Why GAO Did This Examine

Sexual harassment in the office can result in dangerous psychological, actual physical, occupational, and financial effects for staff. A number of federal guidelines, executive orders, and company directives are aimed at stopping and addressing sexual harassment at federal organizations.

GAO issued a June 2020 report (GAO-20-387) that reviewed VA’s initiatives to stop and deal with sexual harassment at the company. In this report, GAO created 7 suggestions. This testimony discusses VA’s attempts to put into practice GAO’s suggestions to 1) assure VA’s EEO structure is thoroughly aligned 2) boost the agency’s procedures to avoid and handle sexual harassment of VA workers 3) accumulate and review data to advise VA about sexual harassment of its personnel and 4) boost suitable training.

To update the status of the suggestions, GAO analyzed newly-available federal study data on the prevalence of sexual harassment and reviewed company assistance and documentation.

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