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CIA addresses harassment in the workplace

The Associated Press recently obtained a copy of a memo sent out by the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity director. In the message, the director said that out of 69 complaints of harassment in the 12 months preceding Sept. 30, 2013, the office found 15 complaints to be true. According to the memo, the offenders involved in those cases, which included racial, sexual and other harassment, were disciplined.

However, CIA officials also noted that employees complained that no one was demoted or fired because of the incidents of harassment. Instead, the offenders received letters of reprimand or counseling, were required to participate in harassment training, or were pulled from field assignments. One unnamed senior official said the point of the discipline was to deter employees from such behavior without ending their careers.

The CIA has a well documented history harassment and discrimination. In 1995, the agency settled a lawsuit with 450 women. The settlement led to promotions and raises for around 100 female officers.

More recently, in 2007, a class action complaint was brought against the agency by female officers who claimed that women who had romantic relationships with foreigners were treated more harshly than men who did the same thing. A judge for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed the claim because not enough women had joined the class-action. However, the women did pursue individual claims, and a number of women were awarded settlements.

It may be true that some types of employment are more prone to hostility than others, but that doesn't mean that workers are not entitled to a reasonably safe and discrimination-free work environment. If you have suffered workplace harassment or discrimination, then don't be afraid to take a stand. An employment law attorney can investigate your case and clarify your options.

New Jersey Herald, "CIA disciplines 15 officers in harassment cases," Ken Dilanian, June 10, 2014

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