The IG’s office of the Justice Department has said it has recently seen an increase in the number of allegations “regarding allegedly inappropriate relationships between high-level supervisors and subordinates.”
“The imbalance of power between supervisors and subordinates has, in many instances, raised questions about the consensual nature of such romantic or intimate relationships,” it added.
The report cited four investigations over the course of just more than a year involving romantic supervisor-subordinate relationships at the FBI, Bureau of Prisons and at the departmental level in which it determined there was misconduct and in some cases at least the appearance of favoritism and a decline in staff morale.
The IG said that that in the course of its work it discovered that policies vary widely among departmental components. “Specifically, some components prohibit such relationships, some components do not have policies regarding such relationships, and most other components permit them but impose obligations on the supervisor, and in some instances the subordinate, to report them so that the supervisor can be recused from personnel decisions involving the subordinate,” said a special management alert report.
Further, the IG said it could not find any policy on the subject at the DEA or in the offices, boards and divisions section.
“The OIG is concerned that these different policies-or in some instances the lack of any policy at all-have led or will lead to inconsistent disciplinary treatment of supervisor-subordinate relationships across the department for similar or even identical conduct, which could undermine confidence in the fairness of the department’s disciplinary system,” it said.
It recommended that Justice consider whether to adopt a department-wide policy, whether a subordinate should be required to report such a relationship and if so, what are the appropriate channels, and whether any penalty for failure to report should be more stringent for a supervisor than for a subordinate.