Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Interior - Harassment targeted; more disciplinary actions could follow

The Interior Department is stepping up its anti-harassment efforts, with an expansive new policy spurred by some harsh employee assessments of their workplace. The intensified crackdown could mean more disciplinary actions, as it entails holding employees "accountable at the earliest possible stage, before the conduct rises to the level of illegal harassment," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke advised workers in a memo yesterday. "The policy enshrines our commitment to providing a work environment free from harassment by ensuring that appropriate officials are notified of, and can properly stop, harassing conduct," Zinke stated. An 18-page personnel bulletin spells out the new policy, which took effect yesterday. The policy bans "harassing conduct," which it defines as "unwelcome conduct, verbal or physical, including intimidation, ridicule, insult, comments, or physical conduct, that is based on an individual's protected status or protected activities." The policy further specifies that the conduct is banned if it "can reasonably be considered to adversely affect the work environment" and if it targets an individual's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, family medical history, status as a parent, marital status or political affiliation. "Although not every instance of inappropriate behavior may meet the legal definition of harassment, such behavior undermines morale and the Department's mission," the memo states. Interior's definition goes beyond the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's, which does not include family medical history, status as a parent, marital status or political affiliation among protected classes. Interior's "adversely affect the work environment" standard also appears to be broader than EEOC's coverage of behavior that is "intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people." The EEOC's definition also does not include the unadorned word "comments."...MORE

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