Great benefits: DoJ gave bonuses to workers charged with sexual harassment

The federal government, in their capacity as an employer, continues to hold on to their leadership in the category of, “good work if you can get it.” Their Inspector General has been combing through the books and noticed that a number of bonuses were handed out for excellent performance this past year. That’s generally a good idea because you want to reward those who excel and encourage others to do better. But in this case, the list contained a few odd entries. Specifically, people who had been accused of or even disciplined for sexual harassment of various sorts. (Government Executive)

Some of the 1,400 attorneys and support employees at the Justice Department’s Civil Division have been given performance awards at the same time they are under investigation or being disciplined for sexual harassment, the department’s inspector general reported on Thursday.

In an unusual report accompanied by a “management advisory memorandum” to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and a nine-minute podcast, IG Michael Horowitz warned of “systemic issues” with Justice Department components’ handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations…

All, if confirmed, would violate “zero tolerance” policies at Justice that go back to 1993 under Clinton administration Attorney General Janet Reno.

When you hear the term “sexual harassment” you may immediately think of cases of employees telling an off color joke or other incidents of professionally questionable behavior. But the cases highlighted by the IG office seem to go considerably further in some instances, including, “stalking, peeping, inappropriate touching, inappropriate relationships with subordinates, inappropriate comments and the practice called ‘catfishing.’” That’s quite the stack of accusations. One might wonder how any people who had been found actually guilty of such actions are still employed to begin with, but then we would simply remind you about the unions and the Merit Systems Protection Board.

But… bonuses? Surely the system can’t be that far off into Bizzaro World that you’d hand out bonuses to confirmed stalkers, right? As it turns out, this one comes down to a far more pedestrian situation involving incompetence and poor record keeping. The IG found that reports of such accusations and investigations frequently never make it into the general personnel records system and are not available to upper management when conducting reviews and assigning bonuses. That’s because the investigations are recorded with paper records which are supposed to be filed under the accused employee’s last name. But the records aren’t reliably transferred to the worker’s general HR file and sometimes they were filed under the name of the alleged victim, not the perpetrator. In other words, there was pretty much zero chance that the incident would be recorded in the employee’s full personnel folder.

Was that intentional or just an antiquated record keeping system which never caught up to the times? Impossible to say, but the Inspector General has recommended an overhaul of the process so that records can be better maintained and tracked. The Justice Department reportedly accepted those suggestions. Let’s see if they actually follow through now.