Our government says it has a zero tolerance for sexual harassment and retaliation, but at the VA, this isn't the case. All workers are unsafe, when precedents like what happened at the Fresno VA go unchecked.
VA blatantly condones EEOC violations, despite 3 Decades of Congressional Directives to address this problem. The Department of Veterans Affairs states that it has a no tolerance policy for sexual harassment, but in practice, their behavior demonstrates that this is not the policy at all. Violations of EEOC policies seem to be tacitly condoned by staff at all levels, from the local EEOC Program Manager, to facility management, all the way up to Secretary Shinseki. In November of 2009, at the Central California VAMC in Fresno, CA, Mr. Tom Williams was sexually assaulted by none other than the EEO Program Manager. An EEOC Administrative Judge found against the facility, in violation of Title VII, and stated that Facility Director Mr. Perry’s “primary concern was for Ms. Hill, the perpetrator of the harassment, not for Mr. Williams, the victim of harassment.” Ms. Hill received no discipline and even the judge commented that given her position as EEO Program Manager, she should be held to a higher standard than other employees as far as following EEO policies, and also noted that "it is the height of irony that a few months later (after the harassment) Ms. Hill was given a Woman of the Year Award by the VA's Women's EEO Committee". Though Mr. Williams won the case, he actually lost money in pursuing justice through the EEOC process.
The Agency then began to retaliate against him, creating a hostile and intolerable work environment, leading to him having to transfer to a job in a different state and denying him advancement opportunities. Secretary Shinseki has stated “the Department will vigorously enforce all applicable Federal EEO laws, regulations, executive orders, and management directives to ensure equal opportunity in the workplace for all VA employees. VA is strongly committed to reminding managers and supervisors of their obligations to maintain an environment free from discrimination, reprisal and retaliation actions.” Mr. Williams’ experience suggests that these words are meaningless and empty. His experience is reminiscent of controversies in the 1990’s, when Congressional hearings were held about sexual harassment within the VA, and the VA told Congress that it would adopt an absolute zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. The policy now implemented reflects what Mary Cavanaugh described to Congress in 1997: “The problems that were defined at this hearing were twofold: (1) how do you prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and (2) how do you prevent further victimization from an agency who seeks to quiet the victims, and reward the perpetrators.” How many decades will it take for the VA to openly address this problem and make genuine changes?
Please sign this petition and ask Secretary Shinseki (who is aware of this case and has done nothing to intervene) to address this problem. All workers are unsafe, when precedents like what happened at the Fresno VA go unchecked. If an EEO Program Manager is allowed to sexually assault an employee, how can anyone feel safe in the workplace?