Federal Employment:

Sexual Harassment at the Department of Veterans Affairs

T-GGD-93-12: Published: Mar 30, 1993. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints, focusing on: (1) the initiatives VA has taken to resolve sexual harassment complaints; and (2) how proposed legislation would address complaint processing problems. GAO noted that: (1) between fiscal years 1989 and 1993, VA settled 10 sexual harassment complaints, rejected 9 complaints on procedural grounds, and closed 5 cases with no finding of discrimination; (2) VA center employees assigned on a part-time basis conducted sexual harassment investigations and employee counseling; (3) VA did not properly or consistently handle sexual harassment complaints because of the lack of sufficient independence and oversight, potential medical center directors' bias, delays in investigation scheduling, and complaintants' perceived retaliatory actions; (4) initiatives aimed at improving VA complaint processing problems include requiring joint reviews from medical center directors and regional officials, requiring mandatory sexual harassment training, and creating a task force to study sexual harassment issues; and (5) proposed legislation to strengthen the VA sexual harassment complaint system would create an office to resolve discriminatin complaints, require adminstrative law judges to adjudicate sexual harassment complaints, and allow more time for investigations.

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