Harassment Prevention - Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion (ORMDI)
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Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion (ORMDI)

 

Harassment Prevention

Harassment Prevention Program


“Making your workplace a harassment-free zone” 


HPP Questions and Answers

Harassment is any unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct based on race, color, national origin, religion, age (40 and above), sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), disability, genetic information, or reprisal for prior EEO activity. Harassment becomes unlawful where:
• Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or
• Conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
The conduct covered by this handbook is broader than the above definition of unlawful harassment. Inappropriate and harassing conduct that may not rise to the level of unlawful harassment will also be covered in this handbook.

The Harassment Prevention Program is an enterprise-wide department within the Office of Resolution Management. We provide centralized tracking, monitoring and reporting processes to proactively respond to allegations of harassment, whether or not accompanied by an EEO basis. We will report harassment allegations to VA leadership in order to ensure that prompt corrective measures are taken to decrease harassing behavior in the workplace. The HPP is responsible for providing education and awareness training on the harassment program.

VA is committed to creating a culture, rooted in our mission and core values, which engages and inspires employees to their highest possible level of performance and conduct. The Department of Veterans Affairs is also responding to an EEOC mandate to establish enterprise-wide anti-harassment policies and procedures to ensure allegations of harassment receive a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation; and, that VA takes immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines harassment has occurred. By doing this, VA can proactively prevent harassing conduct before it becomes severe or pervasive.

The EEO process is designed to make individuals whole for discrimination that has already occurred through damage awards and equitable relief paid by the agency, and to prevent the recurrence of the unlawful discriminatory conduct. However, the EEO process cannot require an agency to discipline its employees. The Harassment Prevention Program (HPP) requires that immediate and appropriate corrective actions are taken to eliminate harassing conduct regardless of whether the conduct violated the law or whether an employee pursues an EEO complaint. The HPP will solely focus on taking whatever action is necessary to promptly bring the harassment to an end, or to prevent it from occurring at all.

An employee who believes he or she has been subjected to harassing conduct can report the matter to his or her immediate supervisor (or second-line supervisor in the event the first-line supervisor is the alleged harasser);the Harassment Prevention Coordinator (HPC) for his/her specific staff office or administrative office; or the HPP: 1-888-56-NEW VA (1-888-566-3982). Employees notified by another employee that he/she is being harassed, should encourage the harassed employee to take immediate action to stop it by reporting the harassing conduct; and, if an employee actually sees or hears another employee being harassed immediately take the appropriate steps to report the alleged harassment. Supervisors or managers who observe or are notified of harassing conduct are required to assess the situation immediately and consult with the HPC or the HPP.

• Threatening that rejection of sexual overtures will affect appointments, promotions, transfers,or evaluations.
• Creating belittling caricatures or objects depicting persons of a particular race, national origin, religion, or other protected category.
• Telling racial or ethnic jokes.
• Teasing, mimicking, or repeatedly commenting on an individual’s disability, accent, or other protected category.
• Making offensive comments, jokes or suggestions about an employee’s gender.
• Making obscene or lewd comments, slurs, jokes, epithets, suggestions, or gestures.
• Commenting on an employee’s body or sexual characteristics.
• Displaying nude or sexually suggestive objects, pictures, images, or cartoons.
• Continuing prohibited behavior after a coworker has objected.
• Laughing at, ignoring, or retaliating against an employee who complains.
Note: The conduct must be unwelcome Therefore, the perspective of the recipient – i.e., the person subjected to the behavior or the person witnessing the behavior – as to whether the behavior is viewed as offensive,demeaning, or hostile is a primary consideration in determining whether the behavior constitutes harassing conduct.

All reports of hostile or abusive conduct and related information will be maintained on a confidential basis to the greatest extent possible. The identity of the employee alleging violations of the Harassment Prevention Policy will be kept confidential except as necessary to conduct an appropriate inquiry into the alleged violations or when otherwise required by law. Anonymous allegations of harassment will be investigated and monitored to the fullest extent possible.

Yes. The harassment prevention procedures do not affect rights under the EEO complaint process. The harassment prevention procedures process is entirely separate and apart from the EEO complaint process. This means that an employee who reports allegations of harassment in accordance with VA Directive 5979 and VA Handbook 5979 has not filed an EEO complaint. An employee who wishes to file a discrimination complaint should contact an EEO counselor at (888) 566-3982 for more information within 45 days of the alleged harassing conduct. An employee may report harassment using the HPP procedures and file an EEO complaint simultaneously.

The harassment prevention procedures are entirely separate from the EEO complaints process. If an employee chooses to withdraw his or her EEO complaint, the employee can still move forward with the HPP harassment allegation. A harassment allegation reported to the HPP cannot be withdrawn. A harassment inquiry, appropriate corrective actions, and outcome reporting to the HPP are still required by management.

Yes, employees who believe that they have been bullied can contact the HPP office.

Yes. The Harassment Prevention Coordinator (HPC) for your specific office serves as the local Point of Contact (POC) for all allegations of harassing conduct. The HPC will record your allegations and assist managers and supervisors with addressing each allegation. The HPC ensures that prompt and appropriate corrective actions are taken if harassing conduct has occurred. And, the HPC will maintain all harassment records and report inquiry and corrective outcomes to the HPP.

Management cannot eliminate harassment in the workplace if it does not know it exists. Therefore, it is the employees’ responsibility to report harassment as soon as they believe management action is needed. If an employee has made the harasser aware of the unwanted conduct and the harassment persists, employees should report the unwanted behavior immediately

Veterans, beneficiaries, and visitors can call the HPP: 1-888-566-3982 if the alleged harasser is a VA employee or Contractor. An HPP Specialist will help callers determine if harassment allegations are covered by VA Directive 5979 and VA Handbook 5979, and whether any other avenues exist to address their concerns.

Managers and supervisors are responsible for maintaining a work environment free of harassment. Managers or supervisors who observe or are made aware of allegations of harassing conduct are required to act promptly, effectively, and in accordance with the VA’s anti-harassment policy and procedures to determine the scope of the alleged harassing conduct and take corrective action as appropriate and necessary. The HPP is committed to establishing transparency and accountability at every employment level. Union officials are responsible for encouraging employees to report harassment and cooperate with the inquiry process; advising employees of their rights based on VA’s harassment prevention policy; and reporting harassment as soon as possible.

Contact HPP at 1-888-56-NEW VA (1-888-566-3982) Option 3 from 8am - 4:30pm in all time zones.

Contact you local Harassment prevention Coordinator for training details

(See link for list of Coordinators in Resources section below)

Resources