Fedweek

Employees in general say that senior leaders are less likely to be disciplined.

DHS “cannot ensure it treats all employees equally or that components have properly addressed or referred all misconduct allegations,” an audit has said, adding that as a result the department could be making “inappropriate or unenforceable disciplinary determinations.”

The department lacks “procedures for reporting allegations of misconduct, clear and specific supervisor roles and expectations, or clearly defined key discipline terms,” an IG report said. Reasons include limited HR staff, failure to monitor disciplinary actions to assess them overall and ensure that they are consistent across the department’s components, and failure to assure that individual policies in the components comply with department-wide policy.

And while the DHS-wide policy requires supervisors to address conduct in a timely and appropriate manner and promptly address allegations with appropriate action, “these terms are vague and supervisors may interpret them inconsistently,” it said.

In a department-wide survey the IG conducted, to which more than 54,000 employees responded, 45 percent did not agree that employees at all levels are held accountable for conduct at their component; that figure was 53 percent at TSA and 47 percent at both CBP and ICE. Employees in general said that senior leaders are less likely to be disciplined.

“DHS should evaluate why many respondents felt that senior leaders were less likely to be disciplined for violating workplace results, regulations, or standards of conduct than other employees. It should also evaluate why so many respondents did not report that employees at all levels are held accountable for conduct at their component and why, at certain components like TSA, CBP, and ICE, the negative response rate for this survey question was higher than the Department’s overall response rate. Finally, DHS should review how both of these issues may potentially affect employee behavior,” the report said.

It said that DHS management agreed with its recommendations to address those issues, as well as the survey’s finding that among respondents who were supervisors, HR officials and others with roles in the disciplinary process, only a third agreed that training of supervisors was adequate.