Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Office of Inspector General
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - Office of Inspector General

Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Office of Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued its report on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment.  

Sexual harassment in an organization can have profound effects and serious consequences for the harassed individual, fellow colleagues, and the agency as a whole.  In some situations, a harassed individual may risk losing her/his job or the chance for a promotion, and it may lead the employee to suffer emotional and physical consequences.  It may lead to a hostile work environment, which can reduce productivity and morale at an organization, harm the agency’s reputation and credibility, and expose the enterprise to litigation expenses and monetary judgments.  An effective sexual harassment prevention program can help to protect employees and the agency from such harm and costs. 

Our evaluation objective was to determine whether the FDIC had established an adequate sexual harassment prevention program including policies, procedures, and training to facilitate the reporting of sexual harassment allegations and address reported allegations in a prompt and effective manner.  We found that the FDIC had not established an adequate sexual harassment prevention program and should improve its policies, procedures, and training to facilitate the reporting of sexual harassment allegations and address reported allegations in a prompt and effective manner.

FDIC leadership demonstrated commitment to preventing sexual harassment through global notices to FDIC staff and the agency’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.  However, the FDIC had not established a strategy to acknowledge employees, supervisors, and managers, for creating and maintaining a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.  

We also found that the FDIC should improve its policies, procedures, and training to ensure that:

  • Employees and supervisors know how to identify and report sexual harassment, and ensure that reporting does not result in fear of retaliation; 
  • Supervisors know how to promptly and effectively address sexual harassment misconduct; and 
  • Discipline is proportionate to the level of misconduct.

FDIC policies did not clearly define sexual harassment, include all avenues of reporting allegations of sexual harassment, or clearly describe the roles and responsibilities for preventing sexual harassment and monitoring allegations of such misconduct.  Although the FDIC had developed and implemented adequate procedures to address unlawful sexual harassment complaints, we found that it had not developed procedures for addressing sexual harassment misconduct allegations.  These procedures include:  (1) tracking; (2) investigating; (3) reporting; and (4) resolving misconduct allegations.  Further, the FDIC had not developed and implemented adequate procedures for applying disciplinary action in response to substantiated harassment allegations, including sexual harassment allegations.  In addition, the FDIC should improve its training for employees and supervisors on how to identify conduct that constitutes “sexual harassment,” report allegations of sexual harassment, and address allegations.

Finally, we found that the FDIC did not have agency-specific program accountability or oversight practices including performance goals, metrics, or surveys to determine its effectiveness in preventing and addressing sexual harassment allegations.

Our report contains 15 recommendations to improve the FDIC’s activities to prevent and address sexual harassment.  These recommendations addressed four broad areas:  Improving policies and procedures relating to FDIC actions in response to sexual harassment misconduct allegations; Promoting a culture in which sexual harassment is not tolerated; Ensuring consistent and proportionate discipline; and Enhancing training for employees and supervisors.  The FDIC concurred with 12 of the 15 recommendations and provided alternative actions to address the remaining 3 recommendations.  
 

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