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Sexual harassment in California federal workplaces

Federal workers around the country are less likely to encounter sexual harassment in the workplace today than they were in the past according to the results of a survey by the Merit Systems Protection Board, but the quasi-judicial independent agency found that inappropriate sexual behavior and language in government workplaces is still alarmingly common and most often directed at female employees. The MSPB, which protects federal employees from abusive practices and partisan politics in the workplace, conducted its survey in 2016.

Only 6 percent of the male federal workers polled by the MSPB reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace during the previous two years, but an alarming 18 percent of the women surveyed said that they had been propositioned, touched inappropriately or exposed to lewd materials or language while at work. When the MSPB conducted a similar study in 1994, 44 percent of the women polled and 19 percent of the men reported experiencing sexual harassment of some kind in government offices.

While an MSPB representative accepted that the results of the study were encouraging, he was quick to point out that more work could be done to tackle the issue. In an upcoming report, the agency plans to explore the causes of lewd comments and other forms of sexual harassment, the steps that can be taken to address the problem and the factors that place employees at especially high risk.

Federal laws protect both public and private sector workers from harassment and discrimination, and employers can face severe consequences when these laws are violated. Allegations of sexual harassment can embarrass employers and anger the public, and attorneys with experience in this area may urge the defendants in these cases to settle rather than face the costs and public exposure of a trial.