September 11, 2019
DOT’s Updated Anti-Harassment Policy Meets EEOC Requirements, but Program Compliance Hinges on Procedure Implementation and Data Usage
What We Looked At
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires Federal agencies to establish anti-harassment programs, which are designed to identify and resolve harassment issues before they become severe and pervasive. We initiated this review after a previous audit identified concerns about the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Operating Administrations’ (OA) anti-harassment policies and procedures. Our audit objectives were to assess the extent to which the Department and its OAs (1) have anti-harassment policies and procedures that comply with EEOC guidance and (2) collect and use data on harassment complaints.
What We Found
The DOT policy in place during our audit complied with 13 of 18 EEOC requirements but did not clearly explain prohibited conduct, require the EEO program to inform the anti-harassment program about all harassment allegations, provide for periodic training of managers, provide for periodic training of employees, or create firewalls between the decision makers for the anti-harassment and EEO programs. It also did not require OAs to develop implementation procedures, and the Department and four OAs did not have them, as EEOC requires. One reason for the gaps was EEOC’s evolving and expanding oversight of anti-harassment programs—which led the Department to develop its U.S. DOT’s Policy Framework for the Prevention of Harassment and Unprofessional Conduct (Policy Framework) over several years, including throughout our audit. In response to our findings, the Department closed all the gaps we identified and issued the Policy Framework on June 21, 2019. Also, while the Department was responsible for collecting, monitoring, and analyzing harassment data for 10 OAs, it did not have a system in place that met EEOC requirements. However, the Policy Framework establishes data collection requirements that may enhance the Department’s and the OAs’ ability to identify, address, and stop harassment before it becomes severe or pervasive.
The Department concurred with our recommendation for improving DOT’s anti-harassment procedures. We consider recommendation 1 resolved but open pending completion of the Department’s planned actions.