Document 32: Sexual Harassment in the Federal Government, A Report from the Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, U.S. House of Representatives, 96th Congress, Second Session, 30 April 1980, 32 pp.


   The House subcommittee's report concluded that sexual harassment was an "extremely serious matter" and a widespread working condition throughout the Federal government that would not be tolerated. The subcommittee made twenty-one recommendations to federal agencies, state and local governments, organized labor, and the private sector, encouraging policies, training, and grievance procedures to address sexual harassment. The report included an extensive bibliography on sexual harassment, including works of the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion, Working Women's Institute, Lin Farley, Catharine MacKinnon, Adrienne Rich and other feminists, illustrating the impact feminist activism had had on changing government policies.



APRIL 30, 1980

Printed for the use of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service


59-257 O

p. II


JAMES M. HANLEY, New York, Chairman
MORRIS K. UDALL, Arizona, Vice Chairman

Texas DANIEL B. CRANE, Illinois
GUS YATRON, Pennsylvania  

DAVID MINTON, Executive Director and General Counsel
THEODORE J. KAZY, Minority Staff Director
ROBERT E. LOCKHART, Deputy General Counsel
JAMES PIERCE MYERS, Assistant General Counsel


JAMES M. HANLEY, New York, Chairman


TOM DEYULLA. Subcommittee Staff Director
ROSEMARY STOREY, Senior Staff Assistant
TODD BUCHTA, Staff Assistant

p. III


Foreword 1
Authority for investigation 1
Introduction 2
Background and summary:
    Federal laws and regulations 3
    Definition of sexual harassment 4
    Underreporting 11
    Unawareness of grievance procedures 14
    Training 18
    Survey of Federal employees 19
Conclusions and recommendations 21
Bibliography 28
Letter from Congressman Gene Taylor, ranking minority member of the Subcommittee on Investigations 31

p. 1


   The Subcommittee on Investigations, commencing on July 27, 1979, initiated an investigation into sexual harassment in the Federal government.

   Hearings were held on October 23, November 1, and November 13, 1979. These hearings were the first congressional effort to address a significant Federal workplace issue. The subcommittee, after 6 months of investigation, determined that sexual harassment is a widespread working condition throughout the Federal government. The subcommittee determined that the Federal government had never defined sexual harassment, that Federal workers are reluctant to file complaints, that sexual harassment had not been included in any employee training programs, and that Federal agencies had not initiated any programs to eliminate this problem.

   The subcommittee concluded that sexual harassment cannot be tolerate in the Federal workplace, and that the Office of Personnel Management should define sexual harassment and declare it a prohibited personnel practice that violates the merit system principles. OPM should also initiate training programs to protect Federal workers. Furthermore, the subcommittee instructed the Merit Systems Protection Board to conduct a comprehensive survey to determine the degree and nature of sexual harassment throughout the Federal government. Finally, the EEOC was asked to improve their processing of sexual harassment complaints and to train EEO officials in the handling of such complaints.


   This investigation was conducted as part of the oversight responsibilities of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service under authority of Rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives.

   Clause 1 (o) of Rule X grants jurisdiction to the committee over the Federal civil service and the status of officers and employees of the United States, including their compensation, classification and retirement.

   Clause 2 of Rule X grants general oversight responsibilities and provides that the committee shall review and study, on a continuing basis, the application, administration, execution and effectiveness of those laws within the jurisdiction of the committee and the organization and operation of the Federal agencies having responsibilities in or for the administration and execution thereof, in order to determine whether such laws and programs thereunder are being implemented and carried out in accordance with the intent of the Congress and whether such programs should be continued, curtailed or eliminated.

   In addition, clause 2 requires the committee to review and study conditions or circumstances which may indicate the necessity or desirability of enacting new or additional legislation within its jurisdiction.

p. 2


   On July 27, 1979, Al Ripskis, a Department of Housing and Urban Development employee, released the results of an unofficial survey he conducted at that agency. The survey revealed that over 166 women responded they had been sexually harassed on the job. These women reported that the supervisors had used their power over employees' jobs to subject them to sexual coercion or enticement. The women reported being offered job advancement if they would yield to sexual demands, and being threatened with job sanctions if they refused. Very few of the respondents had filed complaints, and those who did reported that management took no action in a majority of the cases.

   The chairman of the Investigations Subcommittee, James M. Hanley, was alarmed by the findings and immediately ordered his subcommittee to begin an investigation into the reports of widespread sexual harassment at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. During the preliminary phase of the investigation, the subcommittee began receiving hundreds of phone calls and letters from federally employed women from a variety of agencies, claiming they were victims of sexual harassment. A significant proportion of these calls came from field offices throughout the United States, thereby establishing that the problem is national in scope.

   Accordingly, the subcommittee determined that the investigation should no longer be limited to one agency, but, in fact, must include the entire Federal workforce. Furthermore, the subcommittee decided it could not address the broader issue of relations between men and women at work, but rather would examine behavior that constituted an abuse of authority and behavior that adversely affected the effectiveness of the workplace. While recognizing that men, too, may be victims of sexual harassment, the subcommittee discovered that the vast majority of victims are women, and that complaints from male employees are insignificant.

   The subcommittee conducted three days of hearings, October 23, November 1, and November 13, 1979 (Sexual Harassment in the Federal Government, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, House of Representatives, 96th Congress, 1st Session, October 23, November 1 and November 13, 1979 (Serial No. 96-57)).

   The subcommittee wanted to hear from a variety of responsible groups and individuals with knowledge and concern about the problem, from some of the agencies where harassment was reported and from the agencies responsible for protecting Federal employees from such practices.

   Testimony was taken from Donna Lenhoff, staff attorney for the Women's Legal Defense Fund; Mary Ann Largen, Director, New Responses, Inc.; Helen Lewis, Executive Director, D.C. Commision for Women; Dianne Rennay Williams. Plaintiff, Williams v. Saxbe; Eleanor Holmes Norton, Chair, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Louise Smothers, Director, Department of Women's Affairs, American Federation of Government Employees; Dorothy Nelms, President, Federally Employed Women; William Medina, Assistant Secretary for Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development; Joseph A. Sanches, Director, Equal Employment Opportunity

p. 3

Programs, Department of Justice; Alan K. Campbell, Director, Office of Personnel Management; and Ruth Prokop, Chair, Merit Systems Protection Board.

   During the course of the subcommitte's hearings and continuing investigation, Chairman Hanley found several serious problems that need to be addressed:

  1. There is no government-wide definition of sexual harassment. As long as no uniform definition is available, managers and employees are uncertain what constitutes a grievable offense.

  2. The incidence of underreporting is high. Most of the women who contacted the subcommittee had no idea where to file a charge of sexual harassment. Many felt that the present grievance system is inadequate, and others feared reprisals.

  3. Employee ignorance of the availability of grievance systems is hampering the ability of those systems to protect Federal personnel from sexual harassment.

  4. There is no evidence that there are any ongoing training programs on sexual harassment for Federal supervisors, EEO counselors or employees which might ameliorate the problem.

  5. While several modest surveys have indicated that the problem is widespread, no official surveys have been performed to determine the nature and extent of sexual harassment. The need for scientific data for use in remedying the problem will increase as awareness of the problem spreads and as more informal surveys are taken which could produce misleading results.

  6. Most Federal agencies and managers are unaware that sexual harassment is a significant problem in the workplace and have not taken steps to eliminate it.



   The subcommittee found that although the problem of sexual harassment appears to be widespread, Federal agencies have made no attempt to address the issue. When this investigation began, not one agency had published a directive or regulation regarding sexual harassment.

   Although not mentioned specifically. title 5, United States Code, clearly should be interpreted to protect Federal employees from sexual harassment. The following sections guarantee employee rights.

5 USC 2301—Merit system principles

* * * * *

(b) (2) All employees and applicants for employment should receive fair and equitable treatment in all aspects of personnel management without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicapping condition, and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights.

* * * * *

(b) (4) All employees should maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest.

* * * * *

p. 4

(b) (6) Employees should be retained on the basis of the adequacy of their performance, inadequate performance should be corrected, and employees should be separated who cannot or will not improve their performance to meet required standards.

* * * * *

(b) (9) Employees should be protected against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information which the employee reasonably believes evidences--
  1. a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or
  2. mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to
  3. public health or safety.
5 USC 2302--Prohibited personnel practices

* * * * *

(b) Any employee who has authority to take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any personnel action, shall not, with respect to such authority--
   (1)discriminate for or against any employee or applicant for employment--
      (A)on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, as prohibited under section 717 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e-16);

* * * * *

   (11)take or fail to take any other personnel action if the taking of or failure to take such action violates any law, rule, or regulations implementing, or directly concerning, the merit system principles contained in section 2301 of this title.
5 CFR 735 (1979)--Employment Responsibilities and Conduct

Subpart A--General Provisions

The maintenance of unusually high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality, and conduct by government employees and special government employees is essential to assure the proper performance of the government business and the maintenance of confidence by citizens in their government. The avoidance of misconduct and conflicts of interest on the part of government employees and special government employees through informed judgment is indispensable to the maintenance of these standards.


   Even though these protections exist, the subcommittee feels that the subject of sexual harassment needs to be given special attention. It is essential that there be one definition of sexual harassment to be applied uniformly by all Federal agencies. To this end, on October

p. 5

9, 1979, Chairman Hanley requested that Alan Campbell, Director, Office of Personnel Management, issue a directive defining sexual harassment and stating that it is a prohibited personnel practice and a violation of merit system principles. The chairman also felt this directive must distinguish clearly between what is acceptable social behavior on the job and what is prohibited behavior in the workplace. The chairman's intent was for the Office of Personnel Management to issue this policy so that it would be clear that sexual harassment undermines the integrity of the Federal government, and will not be condoned. Clearly, the Civil Service Reform Act established the merit system principles to guard Federal workers against egregious practices such as sexual harassment, and an explicit directive from Director Campbell would afford employees stronger protection.

   The subcommittee heard extensive testimony supporting possible definitions. While each witness agreed that a uniform definition is needed, there was debate on whether the definition should be broad or narrow in scope.

   Several witnesses supported a broad definition. In her testimony, Mary Ann Largen, Director, New Responses, Inc., said:

Sexual harassment on the job is not an easy issue to address. The very first difficulty that is encountered by researchers, educators and others seeking solutions to the problems lies in the definition of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a phrase coined to described a variety of undesirable sexual behavior in the workshop. Some are verbal, others involve physical contact. All forms, however, we believe, could be broken down into two basic categories. We have labeled those categories inducement and harassing behavior.

Inducement, as a form of sexual harassment, describes a situation where sexual compliance is proposed or exchanged for a job or job opportunities. The proposition may or may not be accompanied by a job threat or other forms of coercion.

Harassing behavior, on the other hand, describes situations where no job opportunity offers are made, but where the victims are subjected to behaviors ranging from as simple things as leers and innuendos to pinching, patting, and other forms of physical contact. Although suggestions or propositions may be made along with this behavior, they may or may not be accompanied by job threats or other pressures.

   Helen Lewis, Executive Director, D.C. Commission for Women, took the approach that:

… sexual harassment can be said to occur when an individual in authority exercises or attempts to exercise that authority to control, influence, or affect the job, career. or salary of another employee or prospective employee in exchange for sexual favors.

   Louise Smothers, Director, Department of Women's Affairs, American Federation of Government Employees, offered her position:

At the outset we would like to note that AFGE supports a broad definition of sexual harassment. Because the scope of

p. 6

sexual harassment can range from very subtle to the more overt forms, we find that a comprehensive definition is necessary to fully define this problem. Broadly stated, sexual harassment is any unwanted physical or emotional contact between workers or supervisors and workers, which makes one uncomfortable and/or interferes with the recipient's job performance or carries with it either an implicit or explicit threat of adverse employment circumstances.

   Dorothy Nelms, President, Federally Employed Women, stated:

We too believe at Federally Employed Women that sexual harassment, is a very difficult and very broad term, but the thing that is important … is the very personal aspect that goes with sexual harassment, the fact that a touch on the body can be just as offensive to one person as an attempted rape is to another person. This makes it very difficult to say we are going to deal with gradations of sexual harassment when the personal element has to be considered as to what is any level of sexual harassment. It comes from coworkers and in some cases "others," instructors in training courses who have a decision to make over a field course or whether somebody is going to pass a course related to a particular aspect of their job. It plays havoc with women as they get into higher positions where … you get into a much more subtle form of sexual harassment and this may be only words. It may not be actions.

   Although these witnesses testified in favor of a broad definition, others felt that too broad a definition would do little to lessen the confusion surrounding the subject. The subcommittee felt that the definition needs to be specific in order to minimize the possibility of frivolous complaints.

   Alan Campbell, Director, OPM, indicated in his testimony on November 13, 1979, that his agency is very concerned about incidences of sexual harassment which affect the economic, physical and emotional status of its victims. "Sexual harassment is an employment issue with serious and sometimes tragic consequences," Campbell said. "All Federal employees should be able to work in an environment free from sexual pressures and we support your initiative to examine the problem."

   Director Campbell's testimony contained a definition of sexual harassment and a policy statement which notes that such harassment is a prohibited personnel practice and a violation of merit system principles. He indicated that the Office of Personnel Management will take a leadership role by recommending that each Federal agency and department issue a strong management statement, following OPM guidelines, which clearly defines the policy of the Federal government as an employer with regard to sexual harassment.

   On December 12, 1979, Director Campbell sent that policy statement and definition of sexual harassment to all heads of departments and independent agencies. The definition included in this memorandum is essentially the same one that Director Campbell offered at the subcommittee hearing conducted on November 13, 1979.

p. 7

Washington, D.C., December 12, 1979.

Memorandum to: Heads of departments and independent agencies.

Subject: Policy statement and definition on sexual harassment.

   This memorandum transmits the Office of Personnel Management's policy statement on sexual harassment which is applicable to each Federal agency and department. The policy statement also includes the specific definition of sexual harassment which should be utilized in addressing this issue.

   The Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service has held hearings on the problem of sexual harassment within the Federal sector. The Office of Personnel Management was requested by Chairman James M. Hanley to assist in the effort to curtail sexual harassment by issuing a policy statement which made clear that sexual harassment undermines the integrity of the Federal Government and will not be condoned. Merit system principles require that all employees be allowed to work in an environment free from sexual harassment.

   I am recommending that each of you take a leadership role by initiating the following actions:

  1. Issue a very strong management statement clearly defining the policy of the Federal Government as an employer with regard to sexual harassment;

  2. Emphasize this policy as part of new employee orientation covering the merit principles and the code of conduct; and

  3. Make employees aware of the avenues for seeking redress, and the actions that will be taken against employees violating the policy.





   Federal employees have a grave responsibility under the Federal Code of conduct and ethics for maintaining high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality and conduct to assure proper performance of the Government's business and the maintenance of confidence of the American people. Any employee conduct which violates this code cannot be condoned.

   Sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct which undermines the integrity of the employment relationship. All employees must be allowed to work in an environment free from unsolicited and unwelcome sexual overtures. Sexual harassment debilitates morale and interferes in the work productivity of its victims and co-workers.

   Sexual harassment is a prohibited personnel practice when it results in discrimination for or against an employee on the basis of conduct not related to performance, such as the taking or refusal to take a personnel action, including promotion of employees who submit to sexual advances or refusal to promote employees who resist or protest sexual overtures.

p. 8

   Specifically, sexual harassment is deliberate or repeated unsolicited verbal comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature which are unwelcome.

   Within the Federal Government, a supervisor who uses implicit or explicit coercive sexual behavior to control, influence, or affect the career, salary, or job of an employee is engaging in sexual harassment. Similarly, an employee of an agency who behaves in this manner in the process of conducting agency business is engaging in sexual harassment.

   Finally, any employee who participates in deliberate or repeated unsolicited verbal comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature which are unwelcome and interfere in work productivity is also engaging in sexual harassment.

   It is the policy of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that sexual harassment is unacceptable conduct in the workplace and will not be condoned. Personnel management within the Federal sector shall be implemented free from prohibited personnel practices and consistent with merit system principles, as outlined in the provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. All Federal employees should avoid conduct which undermines these merit principles. At the same time, it is not the intent of OPM to regulate the social interaction or relationships freely entered into by Federal employees.

   Complaints of harassment should be examined impartially and resolved promptly. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be issuing a directive that will define sexual harassment prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and distinguish it from related behavior which does not violate Title VII.

   Director Campbell indicated that he feels the definition is as broad as it can be without inviting frivolous complaints. He stated that this definition will put some burden on the victims to inform the alleged harasser that the behavior, as defined, is unwelcome.

   The subcommittee's contention that a uniform definition is essential is supported by the fact that two agencies issued different directives on sexual harassment after the investigation began. They are sound directives and the agencies are to be commended for taking an aggressive stand. However, direction from OPM is necessary to ensure that agency directives are consistent government-wide.

   The directives issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare follow:

Washington, D.C., September 17, 1979.

Memorandum for: Secretarial officers, heads of operating units and departmental offices, EEO officers, personnel officers.

Subject: Sexual harassment.

   The subject of sexual harassment in employment has received considerable attention recently from the media, from several human rights organizations, and from a Congressional Committee which is conducting inquiries into specific complaints of sexual harassment in Government agencies. It is timely to state clearly the Department's policy on this subject.

   Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments. It refers to behavior which is not welcome, which is personally offensive, debilitates morale, and interferes with the work effectiveness of its

p. 9

victims and their co-workers. Sexual harassment may include actions such as:

Sex-oriented verbal "kidding" or abuse;

Subtle pressure for sexual activity;

Physical contact such as patting, pinching or constant brushing against another's body; and

Demands for sexual favors, accompanied by implied or overt promises of preferential treatment or threats concerning an individual's employment status.

   It is possible to occur at two levels: among peers or co-workers, or at the supervisory level. Individuals who experience sexual harassment for co-workers should first make it clear that such behavior is offensive to them, and, if the harassment continues, bring the matter to the appropriate supervisor's attention. In fulfilling their obligation to maintain a positive and productive work environment, supervisors are expected to halt any harassment of which they become aware, by calling attention to this Department's policy or by more direct disciplinary action, if necessary.

   A form of sexual harassment which may be harder for employees to cope with occurs when people use the power of their office or position to control, influence or affect the career, salary, or job of another employee (or prospective employee) in exchange for sexual favors.

   Complaints of sexual harassment involving misuse of one's official position may be made orally or in writing to a higher-level supervisor, to an appropriate personnel official, or to anyone authorized to deal with discrimination complaints. (Complaints to a higher-level supervisor would constitute the informal stage of the grievance procedure.) Individuals who instigate this type of harassment are also subject to disciplinary action, including suspension or removal.

   Sexual harassment is not to be tolerated in the Department of Commerce. Please ensure that all employees are aware of this policy.


Assistant Secretary for Administration.


Washington, D.C., October 5, 1979.

Memorandum to: Heads of principal operating components, principal regional officials.

Subject: Sexual harassment.

   The issue of sexual harassment has recently surfaced not only as a major employment problem for women but also as a component of sex discrimination. We will not tolerate sexual harassment in this Department.

   Sexual harassment is an infringement of an employee's right to work in an environment free from sexual pressure of any kind. While sexual harassment need not necessarily involve a male supervisor and a female subordinate, this has been the most common situation in which the problem arises. But pressure can come from a person of either sex against a person of the opposite or same sex and from peers as well as supervisors.

p. 10

   Here are some examples of sexual harassment:

  1. Explicit or implicit promise of career advancement in return for sexual favors (e.g., promotion, training, awards, details, lax timekeeping, lower standards of performance);

  2. Explicit or implicit threats that the victim's career will be adversely affected if the sexual demands are rejected (e.g., non-promotion, poor performance appraisal, reassignment to a less desirable position/location); and

  3. Deliberate, repeated, unsolicited verbal comments, gestures or physical actions of a sexual nature (e.g., touching, pinching, or patting another person).

   To ensure a work environment free from sexual harrassment, I have directed (1) that the Department's Standards of Conduct include a prohibition against such behavior and (2) that our Equal Employment Opportunity Offices accept and investigate complaints alleging sexual harassment.

   To make sure that all employees are aware of the Department's position on this issue, I want you to take the following actions in your organization:

  1. Advise all employees that sexual harassment is prohibited under the Department's Standards of Conduct and that complaints of sexual harassment are to be filed under the procedures of the Equal Employment Opportunity process;

  2. Provide training for your Equal Employment Opportunity counselors on the subtleties of sexual harassment and how to counsel on such complaints;

  3. Brief all supervisors on the problems of sexual harassment and their responsibility to take timely corrective action when they know such problems exist; and

  4. Designate a key official on your immediate staff to oversee and assure compliance with this memorandum.

These directives take effect with the issuance of this memorandum.


   On January 7, 1980, Chairman Hanley wrote to Harold Brown, Secretary of Defense, urging him to strongly consider adopting a policy on sexual harassment to clarify the Defense Department's stand on the problem. He indicated that it would certainly be in the best interests of the military service if it were made clear to all military personnel what sort of behavior constitutes sexual harassment and that the Department of Defense will not tolerate such behavior. The chairman also asked Secretary Brown to declare that this behavior will be appropriately punished by the proper authorities. Furthermore, military personnel must have appropriate and effective channels through which to file complaints, and they should be made aware of the remedies available to them. The chairman noted that such a policy would certainly help maintain the military's integrity and effectiveness and would help ensure that military personnel will receive adequate and equitable protection.

   On February 14, 1980, Secretary Brown responded indicating that OPM's policy statement on sexual harassment had been forwarded to the secretaries of the military departments and the directors of defense agencies. The Department of the Army did issue a policy statement on

p. 11

January 30, 1980, and Secretary Brown indicated that the other services would soon take steps in line with OPM's recommendations.

   The text of Secretary Brown's letter follows:


Washington, D.C., February 14, 1980.

Chairman, Subcommittee on Post Office and Civil Service, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.

   DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: I share your concern about the allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the Armed Forces and have asked the military departments to investigate the problem. Each of the Service Secretaries has been asked to determine the extent to which sexual harassment exists and to assess current procedures for dealing with such matters. After the investigations are complete, I will issue guidance to all Department of Defense Agencies outlining requirements for commanders to become more involved in investigating complaints and more aggressive in deterring this offensive conduct.

   The Army has already issued such a policy statement and guidance, and another Service is about to do so. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs and Logistics) has been meeting with the Inspectors General and Human Resources personnel representing the military services and is keeping me apprised of progress. I assure you that I personally support these efforts and will insure that the problem of sexual harassment is addressed and corrected.

   I appreciate your interest in our efforts to eliminate civilian employee sexual harassment. The information you provide on actions taken by the Office of Personnel Management, Merit Systems Protection Board, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be of substantial value. The recently issued OPM policy statement on sexual harassment of Federal civilian employees has been forwarded to the Secretaries of the Military Departments and the Directors of the Defense Agencies. In line with OPM recommendations, these organizations have been instructed to publish and disseminate the OPM policy to the activity level, to address this policy in new civilian employee orientation sessions, and to advise civilian employees on how to obtain redress from sexual harassment.




   The subcommittee determined in the course of the investigation that, aside from the confusion over what sexual harassment is, the problem had not surfaced previously because few victims have filed complaints. Most women who contacted the subcommittee alleging that they had been sexually harassed had not filed a complaint and witnesses at the hearing were unable to report a significant number of complaints.

   There are several reasons for the lack of complaints. The primary one appears to be that these employees fear reprisals. The situation of one woman who called the subcommittee is informative. She decided

p. 12

to confront the supervisor who was harassing her and told him that if he did not stop, she would talk to his supervisor and file a complaint. He warned her not to make trouble by doing this, because, if she did, one of them would have to go and it certainly would not be him. She feared that her supervisor's assessment of what would happen if she took any action was correct. Intimidated, she decided not to file a complaint. Her fears may have been justified. Many women reported that after filing a complaint, they subsequently received a poor performance appraisal from the accused supervisor.

   There are other reasons why women are hesitant to report sexual harassment. Many women feel it is useless to complain because they feel that managers and other responsible officials do not view sexual harassment as a serious matter and would laugh off any complaints.

   Other women are reluctant to pursue the matter because they know that, initially, any investigation will be conducted by the same agency that is charged with discrimination. They feel that the employee who has the responsibility to investigate the case, whether an EEO counselor or personnel officer, will be under heavy pressure to settle the case in favor of the agency. These women are also hesitant to file EEO complaints, because they feel that many EEO officers simply are not sensitive to the subject of sexual harassment, and would, as a matter of course, dismiss the charge because they view it as frivolous, or because they are unaware that it constitutes prohibited discrimination.

   A very powerful reason for underreporting is the prohibitive length of time it takes to process a claim. In the Federal sector, at the agency level, it takes an average of 440 days to process a complaint. While the investigation is continuing, the complainant remains at her job, vulnerable to retaliation from the accused person. It takes courage and fortitude to continue to work in an office while subjected to this kind of stress.

   The problem of underreporting was explored by a number of witnesses at the hearings who substantiated the subcommittee's observations. Donna Lenhoff, staff attorney for the Women's Legal Defense Fund, commented that:

The legal conclusion that a claim of sexual harassment is grievable under Title VII is unfortunately only the beginning of a woman employee's battle to obtain relief from such discriminating practices. The problems that can arise in enforcing Title VII rights, the requirements of undergoing often protracted administrative proceedings, the difficulty of producing proof of often subtle forms of discrimination, the need to persuade often unsympathetic finders of fact, the ease and likelihood of retaliation during the pending action are all aggravated in the Federal context.

   Dorothy Nelms, President of Federally Employed Women, offered several reasons why she felt women were reluctant to file a charge. She described many of the ways in which sexual harassment affects women, and concluded:

The most significant of these is the feeling of powerlessness. We also feel that the manifestation of sexual harassment is the result of males having power in the economic environment …

p. 13

the exercise of that power in the form of … harassment against women and the feeling of powerlessness because women feel systems haven't been responsive.

   Ms. Nelms then noted specific reasons why women are hesitant to file a complaint:

  1. It is difficult to protect the confidentiality of the complainant once the investigation of her charges has begun. This subjects the women to embarassment and harassment from the coworkers of the man against whom they made the charges, and from other women who feel that the complainants brought it upon themselves.

  2. Sexual harrassment often occurs when the woman is economically vulnerable. Many women have to work for a living and fear that if they file a complaint they will lose their jobs.

  3. Some women feel guilty about these advances. They believe they have done something to cause them, and they are, therefore, reluctant to report the incident because they think they will be incriminated.

  4. The length of time it takes to process a complaint is prohibitive. Considering that the complainant must continue to work with her harasser and be subject to reprisals, it is no wonder that few people use the current formal complaint system.

  5. Others ignore the harassment, transfer out of their section, or, in some cases, simply give in.

   Eleanor Holmes Norton, Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, offered statistics on the number of women who had filed complaints. She commented that "as important as the complaint processing system is, it would be naive to rely on complaints alone to handle sexual harassment. To do so places an unfair burden on women to come forward in a situation that is extremely difficult for the average person. It is, therefore, not surprising that there have not been a larger number of complaints. Of 6,229 case resolutions reported by Federal agencies between January 1, 1979 and October 14, 1979, 1,426 were filed by women alleging discrimination because of sex. Of those, 39 or 0.6 percent involved allegations of sexual harassment. Yet it seems clear that the problem is more pervasive."

   The subcommittee heard testimony from Diane Rennay Williams, plaintiff in the landmark 1976 Williams v. Saxbe case. That decision held that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. Ms. Williams' experience in attempting to resolve her sexual harassment complaint clearly explains why women are afraid to file such complaints.

   In September 1972, Ms. William filed a discrimination complaint against the Federal agency at which she was employed. She stated that she had been unsuccessful in trying to informally resolve the situation with her supervisor. Nine days after she filed her complaint, she was fired with 25 minutes notice.

   Ms. Williams pursued her case by filing a formal EEO complaint, and finally taking her case to Federal District Court to obtain relief. Her case still has not been resolved. Ms. Williams testified that she never envisioned being involved for over seven years in attempting to resolve her sexual harassment charge.

p. 14

   At the hearing. Ms. Williams expressed her concern regarding the Federal complaint process. She stated:

It was approximately three or four years ago that the former Civil Service Commission recognized sexual harassment as an actionable offense under Title VII. By virtue of intervening on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Corne case, EEOC, I hope, will have little or no problem in recognizing and constructively dealing with complaints of sexual harassment. Unfortunately, however, Federal employees, unlike their counterparts in the private sector, have no Federal agency to intervene on their behalf as the EEOC does with respect to suits against nongovernmental parties, and as the Attorney General does with State and local government. These and other developments give rise to my sense of frustration and pessimism as to the viability and integrity of the Federal government's EEO complaint procedures, particularly insofar as they pertain to the processing of sexual harassment complaints.

Ms. Williams concluded:

The present system is neither effective, efficient nor judicious. It is also not conducive to Federally employed women reporting incidents of sexual harassment on the job.


   Another factor contributing to the underreporting of sexual harassment is widespread unawareness of the grievance procedures available to Federal employees.

   The subcommittee learned that because women do not know of these procedures, they seek help from a variety of sources, most of which are not properly prepared to assist or counsel victims. Women who contacted the subcommittee reported that they had gone to, among others, their supervisors, personnel offices, the women's program coordinator, a union representative, employee counseling service and their agency's Office of Inspector General. One reason Federal agencies cannot determine the extent of sexual harassment is because complaints were scattered among the above-mentioned sources and record keeping was informal at best.

   Very few employees know that they have legal protection against sexual harassment. Federal courts have ruled that sexual harassment is grievable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and, therefore, victims may file EEO complaints. In fact, many agency EEO counselors themselves are not aware that they can accept harassment complaints. This situation is disturbing because the Commission itself has had a pioneering role in developing the Title VII case law on sexual harassment. In a number of cases, the Commission argued on behalf of charging parties that Title VII should apply to situations involving sexual harassment. The EEOC has taken the position that sexual harassment violates section 703(a) of Title VII, which prohibits the imposition of an onerous condition of employment because of that person's sex. The Commission argued that sexual discrimination, like racial discrimination, generates a "psychologically harmful" atmosphere and that "Title VII guarantees female employees

p. 15

as well as black employees a working environment free of (discriminatory) intimidation."

   The EEOC recently clarified the definition of sexual harassment under Title VII in an amendment to its Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex. This amendment clearly prohibits sexual harassment in both the public and private sector and was approved by the Commission on March 11, 1980. Upon completion of a brief period for agency comment, the amendment will be effective immediately as an interim guideline with changes possible after a 60 day public comment period. The amendment follows:


§ 1604.11 Sexual harassment.

  1. Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of Sec. 703 of Title VII.1 Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

  2. In determining whether alleged conduct constitutes sexual harassment, the Commission will look at the record as a whole and at the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. The determination of the legality of a particular action will be made from the facts, on a case by case basis.

  3. Applying general Title VII principles, an employer, employment agency, joint apprenticeship committee or labor organization (hereinafter collectively referred to as "employer") is responsible for its acts and those of its agents and supervisory employees with respect to sexual harassment regardless of whether the specific acts complained of were authorized or even forbidden by the employer and regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known of their occurrence. The Commission will examine the circumstances of the particular employment relationship and the job functions performed by the individual in determining whether an individual acts in either a supervisory or agency capacity.

  4. With respect to persons other than those mentioned in paragraph (c) of this section, an employer is responsible for acts of sexual harassment in the workplace where the employer, or its agents or supervisory employees, knows or should have known of the conduct. An employer may rebut apparent liability for such acts by showing that it took immediate and appropriate corrective action.

  5. 1The principles involved here continue to apply to race, color, religion or national origin.

    p. 16

  6. Prevention is the best tool for the elimination of sexual harassment. An employer should take all steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate sanctions, informing employees of their right to raise and how to raise the issue of harassment under Title VII, and developing methods to sensitize all concerned.

   At the subcommittee hearing, Ms. Norton pointed out that the EEOC is particularly concerned with the wide variations in processing which exist among the agencies, and with the substantial delays that are often experienced by the charging parties. As a result of this concern, the EEOC instituted a pilot program which would allow the Commission to extend its oversight at the agency level. The five agencies that have agreed to cooperate in this program are the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the Veterans Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Postal Service. They have all agreed to let the EEOC conduct the initial investigation, even though the agency could retain the right to accept or reject an EEOC finding of discrimination. This system would eliminate the criticism that employees do not feel comfortable having their own agency initially investigate a complaint.

   However, Chairman Hanley wanted to be certain that Federal employees would not lose any rights if any of the regular EEO process is eliminated. Ms. Norton assured the subcommittee that:

No steps are eliminated. There is a full investigation meeting evidentiary standards developed over our almost 15 years of experience; there is the opportunity for a hearing if desired by the complainant. The significant difference is the length of time required. Following the old procedures, an average complaint required 440 days to process. No pilot program case has yet taken more than 100 days and we do not expect that more than a very small percentage will. At present, 44 percent of the complaints processed have been settled with relief satisfactory to the complainant and an additional 8 percent have been withdrawn because the complainant received satisfactory relief, a composite 52 percent settlement rate.

An additional 29 percent have been voluntarily withdrawn by complainants, due, we are sure, to the program's practice of sharing documentation and evidence with the parties as it is adduced. This is approximately the same rate of with drawal as occurs in the regular process. but it occurs, on the average, in 42 days from initiation of investigation rather than 250 days in the regular process. We counsel and query complainants before accepting a withdrawal request to assure that the withdrawal is not based upon coercion. We do not believe any employee rights are lost; rather, that they are enhanced.

   Federal employees also are unaware that they may seek redress through the Special Counsel of the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is responsible for protecting employees from prohibited personnel practices, such as sexual harassment. This lack of awareness

p. 17

is particularly disturbing because the MSPB is the only body empowered to issue a stay of a personnel action in order to protect complainants from reprisals. Board Chair Ruth Prokop detailed in her testimony how the Civil Service Reform Act gives the Special Counsel of the MSPB a wide range of tools to uncover and prosecute those engaged in prohibited practices. She explained that:

First, the Special Counsel is directed to investigate allegations of sexual harassment which have occurred in connection with a personnel action. He may require an agency to investigate such harassing practices within it, as well as conduct his own independent investigations. As an investigator of sexual harassment within the Federal government, the Special Counsel occupies a uniquely neutral position. Since he is not subject to the office politics or pressures which may exist with in an agency, his own investigation is likely to be Independent and thorough. In addition to his mandate to investigate such complaints of harassment, the Special Counsel is also authorized to initiate such investigations even in the absence of such a complaint.

Second, the Special Counsel may request, during the course of his investigation, that the Board stay personnel actions which evidence sexual harassment. If the Board grants such a stay, an immediate cessation of sexual harassment can be secured.

Third, the Special Counsel may seek corrective action to eliminate sexual harassment practices in an agency. If the Special Counsel seeks corrective action of sexually harassing practices, he brings those practices to the attention of the head of the agency involved. If the agency head is unwilling to correct these practices, the Special Counsel may request that the Board order the agency to take corrective measures … The Special Counsel may seek correction not merely of single instances of harassment, but of patterns of such practices within an agency.

Finally, the Special Counsel may petition the Board for disciplinary actions against employees who engage in a prohibited personnel practice which includes sexual harassment. In bringing such a disciplinary action, the Special Counsel has a wide range of penalties that they may request and the Board may grant. They can request the Board to remove, reduce in grade, debar from Federal employment, suspend, reprimand, or fine a perpetrator of harassing practices.

In the event that the employee was appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, and hence not subject to these sanctions, the Special Counsel can report these appointees to the President for appropriate action. Such disciplinary actions and reports will serve notice to would-be harassers that the Federal government will not tolerate their behavior.

Chair Prokop concluded that:

The Board has considerable authority to impose sanctions against sexually harassing behavior that results in personnel

p. 18

actions, both through its authority to rectify prohibited personnel practices and its mandate to process employee appeals.


   Two important reasons why sexual harassment remains a problem is the previously mentioned uncertainty as to what actually constitutes harassment and the fact that managers and employees do not know how to deal with it effectively. While the dissemination of OPM's policy directive will go a long way toward clearing up uncertainties about sexual harassment, there is an obvious need for appropriate training programs to foster a full understanding of harassment and also to ensure that government employees are adequately prepared to handle harassment properly. However, the subcommittee's investigation found no evidence of any ongoing training programs on the subject for Federal managers, EEO counselors or employees.

   This lack of training should be remedied promptly. It is clear that the thrust of the government's efforts to eliminate sexual harassment must be directed at stopping it before it happens, rather than trying to solve the problem by punishing harassers after they have already harmed their victims. While penalties for harassment are essential and must be strictly applied to those found guilty, extensive training of Federal employees is imperative because it will serve to deter many harassers. This is one of the affirmative steps agencies must take to ensure that Federally employed women work in an atmosphere free from sexual harassment.

   Subcommittee Chairman Hanley requested that the Office of Personnel Management develop a training module which will be made available to all Federal agencies. On January 16, 1980, Director Campbell informed the chairman that the module entitled "Sexual Harassment Workshop" was completed. OPM plans to use this three hour workshop in its supervisory courses, and in training for managers and executives. This training is offered on an interagency basis throughout the Federal government reaching an estimated 50,000 employees annually. The module also was sent to each OPM region for use in interagency courses, and to directors in the 70 Interagency Advisory Group agencies for inclusion in their internal training.

   OPM plans to cover sexual harassment in existing courses in personnel management, EEO and supervisory curricula It currently is conducting internal workshops for its Workforce Effectiveness and Development supervisors, managers and professional employees involved in classroom instruction.

   The Office of Personnel Management also will encourage each agency to set up its own training programs, and use the material which it developed. The agencies will be urged to emphasize training on sexual harassment issues as part of their new employee orientation programs.

   Eleanor Holmes Norton, Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, agrees that training is an essential element in the prevention of sexual harassment. When she testified before the subcommittee, she stated:

The Commission believes that sexual harassment must be brought to the surface as a workplace issue and dealt with affirmatively and aggressively by the employer.

p. 19

   We believe that it is an answer … but an inadequate answer--to leave women to their remedies. The burden is and should be on the employer--and not on the women or even the men--to affirmatively raise the subject, define the problem, discuss its legal implications, express strong disapproval and finally develop training programs and other methods to sensitize all concerned.

   Ms. Norton noted that the Commission, using its affirmative action authority, is taking several steps to ensure that employees are made aware of this issue:

  1. Agencies will be required to inform Federal employees that coercive sexual advances are prohibited in the workplace by Title VII.

  2. Agencies must include in their affirmative action plans specific steps they will take to ensure a work environment free of sexual intimidation.

  3. The Commission is also designing a training module on sexual harassment for EEO personnel, and is working with OPM to include the subject of sexual harassment in training for all new supervisory staff. The Commission will recommend that this aspect of training be extended to cover existing personnel as well.

  4. The Commission is issuing directives to Federal agency EEO counselors, which will be circulated to Federal women's program officers as well, asking them to include sexual harassment information in their programmatic initiatives.


   There is a clear need for reliable data on which to base efforts to address sexual harassment. The subcommittee found that very few surveys had been conducted to determine the nature and scope of sexual harassment in the Federal workplace. As this issue receives more attention, it is inevitable that more unofficial surveys will be taken. Although such surveys are useful, their credibility is often questioned. Chairman Hanley feels it is essential that this problem be examined in a professional and timely fashion. To accomplish this, on September 18, 1979, he requested that Ruth Prokop. Chair. Merit Systems Protection Board, conduct a survey of Federal employees.

   The Merit Systems Protection Board is uniquely suited to perform a survey of this nature. Under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the Merit Systems Protection Board is authorized to "conduct from time to time, special studies relating to the civil service and other merit systems in the Executive branch and report to the President and to the Congress as to whether the public interest in a civil service free of prohibited personnel practices is being adequately protected."

   On November 13, 1979, Ms. Prokop testified before the subcommittee, and informed members as to the status of the survey. She stated:

In brief, our preliminary research indicated that no scientifically constructed survey on sexual harassment had ever

p. 20

been administered within the Federal workplace or within any other organization in the private sector. This means that no reliable data will be available to assist the Board in gauging the nature and extent of sexual harassment in the Federal workforce or in comparing the Federal Government with other workplaces.

It is clear then that the Board's survey on sexual harassment will represent the first effort to provide a definitive study on this subject.

   Ms. Prokop stated that the Board intends to survey as many as 20,000 Federal employees, unless a smaller number will ensure a reliable response. Men and women representing a cross-section of the Federal workforce will be selected to participate in the survey. The survey will be pretested on members of a representative population.

   The distribution and collection of the survey will be completed in a fashion to assure respondents that their anonymity and privacy will be protected. The data will produce quantitative information which will help to describe the magnitude of the sexual harassment problem in the Federal workplace. The data also will produce descriptive information, such as the characteristics of those persons who have been subjected to sexual harassment and those who have engaged in harassment.

   The survey will use the Office of Personnel Management's government-wide definition of sexual harassment, and will address several issues including:

  1. The degree to which sexual harassment is occurring within the Federal workplace, its manifestations and frequency;

  2. Whether the victims or perpetrators of sexual harassment are found in disproportionate numbers within certain agencies, job classifications, geographic locations, racial categories, age brackets, educational levels, grade levels, et cetera;

  3. What kinds of behavior are perceived to constitute sexual harassment, and whether the attitudes of men and women differ in this respect;

  4. What forms of express or implied leverage have been used by harassers to reward or punish their victims;

  5. Whether victims of sexual harassment are aware of available remedies, and whether they have any confidence in them;

  6. The impact of sexual harassment on its victims in terms of job turnover, job performance, their physical or emotional condition, and their financial or career well-being; and

  7. The effect of sexual harassment on the morale or productivity of the immediate work group.

   The Board estimates that it will complete the survey and report the results to the subcommittee in June or July 1980. In November, the Board will issue a formal report including a summary of the legal aspects of sexual harassment, a summary of remedies currently available within the Federal Government, recommendations for changes where appropriate, and a detailed appendix of statistical charts and other useful data derived from the survey results.

p. 21


   The subcommittee feels strongly that sexual harassment has been ignored too long, and must be eliminated from the workplace. Sexual harassment is pervasive and is not the insignificant personnel issue some people may believe it to be. Sexual harassment will clearly be a major workplace issue in the 1980s and it must be squarely faced by both the public and private sector.

   It is already evident that sexual harassment severely affects the well- being and economic livelihood of women employees, while also affecting the morale, productivity and integrity of the workplace. There are additional reasons why it is essential that all employers address the problem promptly. The majority of working age women are now in the labor force in the United States, and their numbers are steadily growing. A report issued in 1979 by the Urban Institute, entitled "The Subtle Revolution," notes that in less than a generation the size of the female labor force in the United States has more than doubled. The Urban Institute indicated that between now and 1990 an additional million women will enter the labor force each year. The weight of those numbers alone should be enough to prompt action. However, sexual harassment and any other problem that affects the ability of women to work freely will also increase in importance as economic conditions force more and more families to depend on the woman's additional income.

   Furthermore, an increasing number of women will be employed in nontraditional occupations. They are likely to encounter resistance and harassment as they enter "a man's world." However, these women will be less likely to put up with harassment as traditional attitudes toward working women are challenged and serious open discussion of the problem spreads.

   The subcommittee feels it has made a vital first step in attempting to eradicate sexual harassment from the Federal workplace. The governmentwide policy directive on harassment, which the Office of Personnel Management issued at our request, will help clear up any confusion. about what harassment is and will make it clear that its practice will not be tolerated. The implementation of OPM's training program on sexual harassment, which also was developed at our request, will spread understanding of the problem and should enable both managers and employees throughout the government to deal effectively with the problem.

   The survey we requested the Merit Systems Protection Board to perform will provide the first authoritative data on the nature and scope of the problem and will be instrumental in our continuing efforts to eliminate the problem.

   The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has agreed to train its EEO counselors to judiciously handle complaints of sexual harassment, and has issued a directive clarifying the definition of sexual

p. 22

harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Commission has requested all agencies to take specific steps in their affirmative action plans addressing the problem. The Commission has already initiated a pilot program to speed up its complaint processing and will evaluate the program's success by June 1, 1980.

   Furthermore, both the EEOC and the MSPB have reiterated their statutory authority and commitment to handle complaints of sexual harassment.

   While all of the above-mentioned agency efforts are crucial, sexual harassment will not be wiped out by a one time pronouncement and short-lived program. Harassment has been with us since women first entered the predominantly male workplace, so clearly a diligent and prolonged effort will be required to eliminate the problem. The OPM, the MSPB, and the EEOC must make continued efforts to foster an atmosphere in which victims will come forward, knowing that their complaints will be taken seriously and resolved promptly and judiciously.

   However, in the final analysis, sexual harassment will be stopped not by management directives and programs from on high but by the individual efforts of managers and employees. Training programs developed and administered by OPM and other agencies will go far in enabling Federal workers to deal with harassment, but it is up to those workers to apply what they have learned. Managers at every level should let employees know that harassment will not be tolerated and complaints will be taken seriously. The subcommittee hopes that managers will be attentive to the problem, if for no other reason than their job performance evaluations will be based in part on how well they handle sexual harassment.

   Victims should realize that ignoring harassment will not make it go away. Most importantly, victims should realize they are no longer alone; if they have, been subject to prohibited personnel practices, they have a legal recourse which can protect them and redress their grievances. Admittedly, it takes courage for employees to demand the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment. However, the subcommittee is confident that its efforts have made the exercise of such courage by filing complaints more than an exercise in futility.

   Furthermore, employees themselves should stop looking the other way when a coworker is harassed. They should realize that victims do not "bring it on themselves." Employees should listen to coworker complaints seriously and sympathetically and should support fellow workers who are clearly wronged.

   The subcommittee has learned much about the problem of sexual harassment during the course of its investigation. Even though public discussion of this subject had been negligible, the subcommittee was able to play a key role in focusing public attention on the issue.

   The subcommittee made several conclusions about the nature of the problem in the Federal Government. Above all, the subcommittee concluded that sexual harassment is an extremely serious matter.

   The severity of the problem was substantiated by the overwhelming response we received from federally employed women across the country. The subcommittee received hundreds of calls and letters. and only a few were frivolous in nature. These women felt isolated and frustrated because the system was not responsive to their problems.

p. 23

The victims. many of whom had never before related their experiences, were relieved and encouraged that a congressional committee was willing, to address the issue.

   The subcommittee also concluded that many women have not come forward with complaints because they feared that due to prevailing attitudes concerning sexual harassment, they would not be taken seriously. The attitudes of many men is that women should expect to be harassed. The acceptance of this attitude deters women from complaining.

   Mary Ann Largen, Director of New Responses, Inc., addressed this subject at the subcommittee's hearings. She stated:

Obviously, the victim of sexual harassment who chooses to make a complaint frequently finds herself in the same position as a woman who chooses to report a rape. She may be disbelieved, ignored, her credibility challenged, and her complaint may be trivialized. Reporting the harassment may expose her to retaliation and in the end nothing is usually done about the complaint anyway.

Women who have had the experience often share it with other women, so the next victim remains silent and tries to deal with the situation by herself. The harassment goes unreported and management continues to pride itself on the fact that we don't have a problem here because no complaints are served.

   The fact that women have not felt free to come forward with complaints of sexual harassment is disturbing, especially considering the serious effects it has on its victims. Various authorities have said that sexual harassment takes a heavy emotional toll. A wide range of symptoms have been reported by victims of harassment including insomnia, headaches, neck and backaches. stomach aches, decreased concentration, diminished ambition and depression. If the victim is plagued by physical and emotional problems, her job productivity will obviously be affected. Some harassment has resulted in a job loss and a disruption of personal life.

   The subcommittee further concluded that sexual harassment has not surfaced as a serious employment issue because managers are reluctant to recognize it as a problem. Initially we found that most Federal agencies a voided issuing any policy statement prohibiting sexual harassment, as if to do so would be to admit that it existed. Since the hearings were completed, a number of agencies have issued statements, and the subcommittee will continue to monitor agency actions to make sure that every agency follows suit. This is essential, because where there is a reluctance to have employees learn of their rights and options, there will also be a reluctance to exercise those rights.

   Ms. Largen, who has had experience in conducting sexual harassment training for Federal employees, indicated in her testimony that she also found that administrators and managers are not anxious to educate or train employees. She said that managers feel that educating employees will "invite trouble." Education, they fear, will encourage women to come forward. In fact, this probably will happen, and that is a change for the better. But even more important than having victims step forward, hopefully training will prevent the harassment from

p. 24

occurring in the first place. Sexual harassment will not stop unless men and women are taught to change behavior patterns and there will be no behavioral change without education.

   The subcommittee concluded that in order to be understood, sexual harassment must be fully recognized as a form of discrimination. During the hearings, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Chair of the EEOC, made the following observations:

We cannot help but note that just as many racial practices were once accepted as custom, so there are aspects of male/ female interactions on the job which have been tolerated in the past despite the assault they visit on the dignity of their victims.

While sexual harassment is not a new phenomenon, our understanding of it and of the ways in which it can operate to intimidate and to circumscribe the career movements of women continues to evolve.

Sexual harassment is a phenomenon associated with the subordination of women. It is directly inverse to the degree women are accepted as peers in employment situations and in the society generally. Until quite recently it was thought to be unacceptable for women to engage in employment outside the home, and those who did had to expect whatever happened.

I, therefore, submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that the overall problem of sexual harassment will only be abated when women cease meeting artificial barriers to their career advancement; when they are present at all levels of employment, and represented in all job categories.

A man contemplating sexual harassment reacts differently when he knows that there are women in his chain of command. And a man who would ignore sexual harassment by his colleagues reacts differently when he understands that it could also happen to his wife or daughter.

   The subcommittee is making 21 recommendations in order to encourage both the public and private sector to fully address the problem. In addition to the recommendations for the OPM the MSPB and the EEOC, the agencies chiefly responsible for combatting the problem, the subcommittee has made recommendations to the United States Postal Service, the Department of Defense, the White House, and State and local governments.

   The subcommittee has also made several recommendations to private businesses. Although the subcommittee's investigation concentrated on sexual harassment in the public sector, it seems clear that the problem is also present in the private sector. Since the majority of the American labor force works in the private, sector, sexual harassment there obviously is of great concern. However, most individual employers have been hesitant to face up to the problem. They have avoided taking steps to address the problem out of fear that such steps will be seen as an admission that they have serious problems, and any adverse publicity will have an economic impact on their organization. Now that the problem is receiving increasingly wider acknowledgment, the private employer can no longer fear being penalized for acting responsibly and facing up to a problem that affects

p. 25

all of American business. In fact, two major corporations, the Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Corporation, have already negotiated Letters of Understanding with the United Automobile Workers enforcing the existing grievance procedures regarding sexual harassment.

   Fortunately, addressing sexual harassment will not be a burden to private employers. Private firms can address the problem through their existing personnel and equal opportunity programs and will benefit from their past experience in working to eliminate racial discrimination.

   The subcommittee's recommendations to both the public and private sector follow:


  1. OPM should continue its efforts to expeditiously implement training on sexual harassment for current and new Federal employees in both supervisory and subordinate positions throughout the government.

  2. OPM should monitor the penalties that perpetrators of sexual harassment may face.

  3. OPM should continue to urge each agency to take appropriate steps to eliminate sexual harassment. Specifically, agencies should be urged to issue directives prohibiting sexual harassment in accord with OPM's policy. This directive should be prominently posted in every agency. Each agency should make training in sexual harassment available to all employees. Managers should be made aware that their efforts in educating employees about sexual harassment and their ability to handle harassment complaints will be evaluated in their performance appraisals.

  4. OPM should assess agency compliance with sexual harassment laws on a continuing basis.


  1. The MSPB should continue its efforts to complete a thorough and authoritative survey of sexual harassment in the Federal Government. When the survey is completed, the MSPB should issue a report containing a summary of the legal aspects of sexual harassment, a comprehensive discussion of current remedies for Federal employees and possible improvements, and a compilation of important statistics derived from the survey results.

  2. Both MSPB and the Special Counsel should use their unique statutory authority to protect Federal employees from prohibited personnel practices such as sexual harassment. The Board should use its authority to create a supportive climate in which victims of sexual harassment will come forward to seek the available sanctions.


  1. The Commission should continue the efforts it outlined in testimony before the subcommittee to ensure that Federal employees are aware that sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited under Title VII, and that Federal employees receive adequate protection from sexual harassment,

  2. p. 26

  3. The Commission should prepare and implement training for all EEO personnel, and should work with OPM to include coverage of sexual harassment issues in training for new supervisory staff.

  4. The Commission should begin evaluating its pilot program with the goal of reducing the average complaint processing period to 100 days.

  5. The Commission should report to the subcommittee the results of its evaluation of the pilot program.


  1. The Postal Service should take appropriate steps to ensure that all postal employees are protected against sexual harassment in the workplace. The Postmaster General should issue a directive clearly defining and prohibiting sexual harassment and implement training to sensitize managers and employees to the subject. The Postmaster General should review Postal Service grievance procedures to determine if they are effectively handling sexual harassment complaints.


  1. The Department of Defense should continue its efforts to ensure that all military and civilian personnel are protected against sexual harassment in the military service. This is essential because women are playing an increasingly important role in the armed forces.


  1. The President should issue a policy statement defining sexual harassment and declaring that it should be prohibited in the private sector and in the Federal Government.

  2. The President should urge the heads of Departments and agencies to take appropriate steps as directed by the Office of Personnel Management to protect Federal employees from sexual harassment.


  1. State and local governments should follow the example now being set in the Federal government and take steps to ensure that State and local government employees are also protected from sexual harassment. These steps should include the formal recognition and prohibition of this behavior, the establishment of training programs to sensitize supervisors and employees to the problem and a review of the effectiveness and employee awareness of available remedies.


  1. Labor unions should consider including sexual harassment as a grievable offense when they negotiate grievance procedures with management.

  2. Labor unions should institute training programs for their members and officers to sensitize them on the subject of sexual harassment and to make them aware of the available remedies.

p. 27


  1. Employees in the private sector should take steps to ensure that their employees receive protection from sexual harassment that is equivalent to the standards now being established by the Federal Government.

  2. Employers should adopt a management policy which clearly defines and prohibits sexual harassment, and make employees aware of this policy.

  3. Employers should incorporate the subject of sexual harassment into their present employee training and orientation programs including available grievance procedures.

  4. Employers should review their grievance procedures to ensure that they are effectively handling sexual harassment complaints.

   The subcommittee will continue to monitor the problem of sexual harassment in the Federal workplace. The subcommittee will be diligent in its oversight responsibilities and will monitor the development and implementation of training programs on sexual harassment in each Federal agency. Furthermore, the subcommittee will continue to review the effectiveness of complaint processing by both the EEOC and the MSPB. The White House, the Governors and Secretaries of Labor in every State, national labor unions, major women's affairs groups and other public affairs groups will be informed of the subcommittee's efforts in addressing this problem in order to encourage and facilitate further efforts to stop sexual harassment in the American workplace.

   The recognition and elimination of sexual discrimination in the workplace is a difficult process. However, now that the wall of silence surrounding the issue of sexual harassment is crumbling, the Federal Government must set an example by aggressively pursuing the program outlined by the subcommittee. Hopefully, through the efforts of the subcommittee and with the cooperation of every Federal agency, Federal workers will no longer have to contend with sexual harassment on the job.

p. 28


   Although sexual harassment has not yet received widespread recognition and discussion, some material on the subject has been published. In order to assist those with an interest in the problem. the subcommittee felt it would be appropriate to list works on or relating to sexual harassment. This bibliography is only a partial compilation of such works. The appearance of any work below in no way constitutes an endorsement of the work, its author or the views expressed.

Abbott, Edith, Women in Industry: A Study in American Economic History, New York: Arno Press, 1969.

Abramson, Joan, Old Boys, New Women: The Problem of Sex Discrimination, New York: Praeger, 1979.

Achiron. Marilyn, "Sexual Harassment on the Job," Mademoiselle. October 1979, pp. 116-8.

Albert, Jane "Tyranny of Sex in the Office," Equal Times, Vol. 1, No. 19, August 1977.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, Human Rights Department. Overview of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, typwritten, 1979.

Alliance Against Sexual Coercion. Fighting Sexual Harassment: An Advocacy Handbook, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Alliance Against Sexual Coercion, 1979.

Alliance Against Sexual Coercion. Sexual Harassment: in the Workplace, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Alliance Against Sexual Coercion. 1977.

Almquist, Elizabeth M., "Women in the Labor Force," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2, No. 2 (1977).

"A Redbook Questionnaire: How do you Handle Sex on the Job?", Redbook Magazine, January 1976, pp. 74-5.

Barrett, Nancy Smith. "The Economy Ahead of Us." In Women and the American Economy. edited by Juanita Kreps, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1976.

Brodsky, Carroll M., The Harassed Worker, Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 1976.

Broverman et al. "Sex-Role Stereotypes: A Current Appraisal," Journal of Social Issues 28 (1972) : 59-78.

Brownlee, Mary M. and Brownlee, W. Elliott. Women in the American Economy: A Documentary History, 1675-1929. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976.

"Civil Rights, Sexual Advances by Male Supervisory Personnel as Actionable Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," Southern Texas Law Journal 409 (1976).

Crull, The Impact of Sexual Harassment on the Job: A Profile of the Experience of 92 Women. To be published.

"Employment Discrimination--Sexual Harassment and Title VII," New York University Law Review 51, No. 148 (1976), pp. 163-4.

"Employment Discrimination--Sexual Harassment and Title VII--Female Employees' Claim Alleging Verbal and Physical Advances by a Male Supervisor Dismissed as Nonactionable--Corne v. Bausch and Lomb, Inc.", New York University Law Review (April 1976).

Ettinger, Catherine, "The Beauty Queen Syndrome," Washington Newsworks. March 18-24, 1976.

Evans, "Sexual Harassment: Women's Hidden Occupational Hazard." In The Victimization of Women, edited by Jane R. Chapman and Margaret Gates. Beverly Hills, California: Saga Publications, 1978.

Falk, Gail, "Women and Unions: A Historical View." Women's Rights Law Reporter 1 (Spring 1973).

Farley, Lin, Sexual Shakedown, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978.

Ginder, Charles E., "Factors of Sex in Office Employment." Office Executive. February 1961.

Ginsberg, Gilbert J. and Koreski. Jean Galloway. "Sexual Harassment and Legal Protection," Employment Relations Law Journal 3 (1977).

Goodman, Jill Laurie. "Women's Work: Sexual Demands on the Job." The Civil Liberties Review 4, No. 6 (March/April 1978).

p. 29

Gross, Edward, "Plus can change… ? The Sexual Structure of Occupations over Time," Social Problems (Fall 1968).

Hammerman, Herbert and Rugoff, Marvin, "Unions and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," Monthly Labor Review (April 1976).

Harragan, Betty L., Games Mother Never Taught You, New York: Rawson Associates 1977.

Hartmann, Heidi, "Capitalism, Patriarchy and Job Segregation by Sex," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 1 No. 3 (Spring 1976).

Henley, Nancy M., "The Politics of Touch." In Radical Psychology, edited by Phil Brown, New York: Harper and Row, 1973.

Henley, Nancy M., "Power, Sex and Nonverbal Communication." In Language and Sex: Difference and Dominance, edited by Barrie Thorne and Nancy M. Henley, Rowley, Massachusetts: Newbury House Publishers, 1975.

Hill, Ann C., "Protective Labor Legislation for Women: Its Origin and Effect." In Sex Discrimination and the Law: Causes and Remedies. edited by Barbara A. Babcock et al., Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1975.

Janeway, Elizabeth, Man's World, Woman's Place: A Study in Social Mythology, New York: William Morrow, 1971.

Korda Michael, Male Chauvinism! How It Works, New York: Random House, 1973.

Kreps, Juanita, Sex is the Marketplace: American Women at Work, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1971.

Lindsey, Karen, "Sexual Harassment on the Job and How to Stop It," Ms. Magazine, November 1977, pp. 73-8.

Mackinnon Catherine A., Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

Maclay, George and Knipe, Humphry, The Dominant Man, New York: Delacorte, 1972.

Mead, Margaret, "A Proposal: We Need Taboos on Sex at Work", Redbook Magazine, April 1978, pp. 31-3, p. 38.

Michigan Task Force on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Program on Women and Work, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, University of Michigan/Wayne State University, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: conference Report, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Michigan Task Force et al., October 27, 1979.

Pinkstaff, Marlene Arthur and Wilkinson, Anna Bell, Women at Work: Overcoming the Obstacles, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1979.

Pogrebin, Letty Cottin, "The Working Woman: Sex Harassment," Ladies Home Journal, June 1977.

Powel, Harford, Good Jobs for Good Girls, New York: Vanguard, 1949.

Project on Status and Education of Women, Sexual Harassment: A Hidden Issue, Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges, 1978.

Ramsey, Glenn V. ; Smith, Bert Kruger; and Moore, Bernice Milburn; Women View Their Working World, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963.

Rich, Adrienne, Of Woman Born, New York: Norton, 1976.

Rivers, Caryl, "Sexual Harassment: The Executive's Alternative to Rape," Mother Jones, Vol. 3, No. 5, June 1978.

Rosen and Jerdee, "Sex Stereotyping in the Executive Suite," Harvard Business Review, 52, No. 45 (1974).

Safran, Claire, "Update: Sexual Harassment on the Job," Ms. Magazine, July 1978, pp. 85-88.

Safran, Claire, "What Men do to Women on the Job: A Shocking Look at Sexual Harassment," Redbook Magazine, November 1976, p. 149, pp. 217-223.

Seymour, William C., "Sexual Harassment: Finding a Cause of Action Under Title VII," Labor Law Journal. (March 1979).

"Sexual Harassment Lands Companies in Court," Business Week, October 1, 1979, pp. 120-2.

"Sexual Harassment on the Job," Harper's Bazaar, August 1976, p. 12.

"Sexual Pressure on the Job," McCalls, March 1978, p. 43.

Shapiro, Eileen, "Some Thoughts on Counseling Women who Perceive Themselves to be Victims of Non-Actionable Sex Discrimination: A Survival Guide." In Leadership and Authority in the Health Professions, University of California Press, 1977.

Silverman, Dierdre, "Sexual Harassment: Working Women's Dilemma," Quest: A Feminist Quarterly, 3, No. 3 (1976-77)

Steinman, Anne and Fox, David J., The Male Dilemma: How to Survive the Sexual Revolution, Jason Aronson Inc., 1974.

p. 30

U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings Statistics for the United States, 1978. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1978.

U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Women in Traditionally Male Jobs: The Experience of Ten Public Utility Companies, Research and Development Monograph No. 65, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1978.

U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, Handbook on Women Workers, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1975.

U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, Most People Work Because of Economic Need, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1978.

U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau. Sexual Harassment: Articles, Court Cases and Resource Groups, typewritten, Washington, D.C.: Women's Bureau, 1979.

U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, Why Women Work, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1972.

U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, Atlanta and Committee on the Status of Women, Atlanta Community Relations Commission, Background Paper on Sexual Harassment on the Job, typewritten, 1979.

U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, Atlanta and Committee on the Status of Women, Atlanta Community Relations Commission, Fact Sheet on Sexual Harassment on the Job, typewritten, 1979.

Weisel, Kerri. "Title VII: Legal Protection Against Sexual Harassment," Washington Law Review 53, No. 1 (December 1977).

Williamson, Jane, "Hotline: I'm Being Sexually Harassed. What Can I Do?" Working Woman, November 1979, p. 30.

Women's Legal Defense Fund, Legal Remedies for Sexual Harassment, Washington, D.C.: Women's Legal Defense Fund. 1980.

Working Women United Institute, Bibliography of Materials on Sexual Harassment, typewritten. New York: Working Women United Intitute, 1979.

p. 31


Washington, D.C., April 18, 1980.

Chairman Committee on Post Office and Civil Service,
U.S. House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C.

   DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: In response to your recent inquiry, I regret that the Report of the Investigations Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment in the Federal Government, as presented in draft form for proof- reading, does not meet with my approval. Although the report does not reflect my views, my disapproval should not delay release of the Committee Print since I know how hard your staff worked on the document.

   As the Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee with over six years' experience of service on the Committee, I cannot agree that we have determined sexual harassment, to be as widespread a problem of working conditions in the Federal Government agencies as the report indicates. The report places the Subcommittee in a position of jumping to conclusions, I fear based upon the limited testimony of a few witnesses who represented a particular point of view.

   I was surprised to find so little mention in the report of the problems faced by Federal Government managers and supervisors in dealing with unfounded and frivolous complaints of sexual harassment, especially since we covered this issue in some detail in our hearings. As you know, I am very much concerned that artificial constraints and cumbersome mechanisms not be placed as impediments on a manager's ability to manage or a supervisor's ability to supervise merely to satisfy some imagined personnel problem.

   In addition, I know you share my concern about the right of an individual accused of sexual harassment to a presumption of innocence when confronted with highly publicized accusations of this nature, as well as how all employees involved in such situations will be assured of protection of their rights under the law.

   My impression from our hearing was that because there is no definitive information on the nature, extent, severity and resolution of sexual harassment in the workplace, we would await the outcome of the survey to be conducted by the Merit Systems Protection Board of a statistically valid sample of Federal employees to determine if there is a real problem, how widespread it is, and the scope of the problem.

p. 32

   I am very worried that the Subcommittee is now in the position of pre-judging the results of this MSPB effort, which were it not for your exercise of leadership, might not have come about in the first place.

   I have my doubts that, merely because some proportion of complaints and telephone calls to the Subcommittee came from women in Government offices around the United States, we have established the problem as national in scope.

   For all of these reasons, and because I do not choose to file any extensive Minority Views, I would appreciate having this letter published with the Subcommittee report.

With personal regards, I remain,

Respectfully yours,

Ranking Minority Member,
Subcommittee on Investigations.


back to top