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Sterling Employment Law

High rate of sexual harassment cited by VA workers

Why the wait?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs readily concedes that it has a serious and endemic problem linked with pervasive sexual harassment in its facilities nationwide. Notwithstanding the admission, though, VA principals stress that remedial action will likely not result in any salutary changes until at least 2024.

National lawmakers find that inexplicable. Opposition to the VA and its perceived inadequacies in dealing with a significant problem was manifest last week at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing. That forum spotlighted a federal audit revealing a troubling lack of agency response to a patently widespread problem of sexual harassment in the department.

Here's how big that problem is: Reportedly, nearly 25% of VA employees say they have experienced on-the-job harassment. That rate of misconduct far exceeds what has been reported in other federal departments.

Lawmakers say the magnitude of that unlawful behavior is flatly stunning. They also stress in broadly bipartisan fashion their dismay over the VA's apparent unwillingness to address the issues in any meaningful way.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs is simply moving too slowly," says Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.).

Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) echoes that point, pointing with alarm and disdain at a statistic underscoring the 1,100 days or so typically required to process a harassment complaint.

"Three years to process a complaint does not inspire confidence," he stated at the above-cited hearing.

Lawmakers say that they simply will not wait for the VA to act as necessary. Pappas - who chairs a House VA panel - promises to draft a bill that will require a more forceful and immediate agency response.

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