Reporters at Politico had a simple request for 18 different federal agencies: how many claims of sexual harassment had employees filed since 2012, and how much public money was spent to settle them?
Despite a 2002 law called the No FEAR Act that requires federal agencies to tabulate and publish information about discrimination and harassment claims made by employees, the reporters were unable to get a satisfactory answer.
When the reporters asked a similar set of questions to the Treasury Department, which is responsible for managing a $4.3 billion fund used to pay legal settlements against the United States, the department wasn’t able to provide a specific value for sexual harassment case settlements.
Nor was the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—which is supposed to track federal harassment and discrimination data—able to provide information about sexual harassment settlements in the federal government, which employs more than 2 million people.
Overall, only two agencies were able to provide specific numbers to the reporters’ requests. Since 2012, the Department of Agriculture received 75 complaints, and paid $627,310. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which employed more than 8,400 people in 2014, returned just 17 complaints since 2012:
Four of those complaints were resolved, and the remaining 13 entered the formal complaint process. Of the 13 formal complaints, which are reflected in the agency’s No FEAR report, two were settled for a total of $8,600 and two others resulted in counseling sessions costing $1,000.
The “why” behind the lackluster accounting is due to a laborious reporting process that takes months, statutory deadlines, and a lack of investigative resources.
We learned in October that Congress does an exceptionally poor job at tracking internal sexual harassment claims. We now know just how bad the executive branch is at it, too. This leaves the judiciary, a historically opaque branch filled with lots of powerful men.
Writing in his 2017 year-end report, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said simply “that the judicial branch is not immune.”