i9 Follow up: Audit finds multiple issues in how USPS handles sexual harassment complaints

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 8:53 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Inspector General for the United States Postal Service said an overwhelming majority of managers handling sexual harassment complaints didn’t complete the required training on how to handle those complaints.

The audit, which was released earlier this month, said this increased the possibility that complaints were delayed or mismanaged. The report also said the Postal Service may not have a complete picture of the extent sexual harassment goes unreported to management, data related to certain sexual harassment complaints is unreliable and the postal service doesn’t investigate dismissed complaints from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It cites our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team’s story in April where a mail carrier and supervisor said employees made sexual comments about women’s breasts, genitals, and sexual performance. The supervisor said complaints were never investigated and he wasn’t trained on how to handle complaints. Documents, which our i9 Investigative Team received from a public records request, show a manager received a warning in lieu of a suspension after making sexual comments. The manager was fired after he faced more accusations.

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-02), whose office helped to connect one of the employees with the Inspector General’s Office, said the U.S. Postal Service failed to address sexual harassment while responding to the audit in a written statement.

“Federal agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Postal Service have failed to properly address sexual harassment and it’s unacceptable,” she said. “I’ll continue working to hold these agencies accountable for their failures and ensure they follow through on zero-tolerance harassment policies.”

The report explains the post office uses two data systems to maintain records of sexual harassment complaints, the Workplace Environment Tracking System (WETS) and the Grievance and Arbitration Tracking System (GATS).

The report said there are issues related to the completeness and accuracy of the sexual harassment complaint data maintained in WETS because 4% of sexual harassment complaints in another database, which was redacted, were in WETS over a two-year period. It also found complaints recorded in WETS were filed under the wrong category, like Hostile Work Environment/Harassment. Data the Inspector General’s Office also looked at showed the data in GATS was incomplete and some weren’t categorized. It also found a hard copy case file didn’t exist for some cases.

It also found sexual harassment cases dismissed from the Equal Employment Opportunity process didn’t exist in WETS, meaning the complaint was not investigated through other postal service processes. The report said 717 out of 740 managers, 97%, who conducted investigations for 691 complaints have not completed mandatory course training. However, it noted 430 managers, 60%, completed an optional course that covered some aspects of the process.