The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration has records of “very few” cases of alleged sexual harassment among its own security force and those of its contractors but the level may be higher, GAO has said.
In a report ordered by Congress, the GAO said that the agency relies on reports from those alleging harassment—fewer than a dozen over 2015-2020. But it added that “a low number of reported cases may not indicate that prevalence is low because studies have found that workers who experience sexual harassment often do not report it, and the least common response to experiencing harassment is to report the harassment or file a complaint.”
“Further, our review of literature on sexual harassment in federal law enforcement suggests that victims of sexual harassment are unlikely to report their experiences to management”—most commonly out of fear of retaliation, it said.
The EEOC “suggests organizations survey employees to assess the extent to which harassment is a problem in their organization. NNSA does not survey employees on this topic, nor does NNSA call for such surveys in its contracts for security forces,” it said.
However, it noted that in a recent survey by the MSPB across all Energy Department components, about 17 percent of women and about 8 percent of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in the two years prior to the survey.
It added that the NNSA and its contractors follow other EEOC recommendations only “to varying degrees” and therefore “may be missing opportunities to prevent and respond to sexual harassment.”