FDIC lacks adequate sexual harassment prevention, reporting system: IG

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WASHINGTON — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. should take steps to improve how it combats instances of sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a report by the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

The report, dated July 2020, found that the FDIC had “not established an adequate sexual harassment prevention program and should improve its policies, procedures, and training to facilitate the reporting of sexual harassment allegations and address reported allegations in a prompt and effective manner,” it said.

The watchdog emphasized that FDIC leadership had demonstrated a commitment to preventing sexual harassment through the agency’s existing efforts. The watchdog also found that FDIC employees reported lower rates of sexual harassment than the government average. A survey found that 8% of FDIC employees experienced sexual harassment between 2015 and early 2019, well below the governmentwide average of 14%.

But the inspector general office said the FDIC lacked consistency both in how it managed and investigated allegations of sexual harassment, and in how it determined appropriate disciplinary action “proportionate to the level of misconduct."

The watchdog recommended that the FDIC conduct more training for staff related to sexual harassment prevention and reporting. In a survey of FDIC employees conducted by the office, 40% of respondents said they “did not know, or were unsure, how to report allegations of sexual harassment,” and almost 44% felt the FDIC should provide additional anti-harassment training.

“The FDIC has made clear to its workforce that discrimination or harassment, in any form, will not be tolerated at the FDIC,” said a spokesperson, who pointed to the FDIC’s past performance in Merit System Protection Board surveys as having one of the lowest rates of sexual harassment among government employers.

But the spokesperson acknowledged the report's finding that the agency has room for improvement. “The report has identified specific areas where the FDIC can make improvements to strengthen our existing anti-harassment program, and the FDIC has agreed to make changes in all the identified areas,” the spokesperson said.

In the report, the watchdog said the FDIC had committed to "corrective action" in several areas, such as tweaking performance reviews "to bolster existing standards and hold supervisors accountable for cultivating a culture in which harassment is not tolerated," and implementing a new internal system to track allegations of harassment among employees.

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FDIC OIG Sexual harassment Sexual harassment in the professional workplace Women in Banking