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CIA moves to reduce sexual harassment within its ranks

Movies and novels about the secret lives and operations of CIA operatives make for good story telling, but we may not realize that the characters portrayed in those stories may be actual people working for a government agency that is subject to federal rules regarding discrimination in the workplace.

Nevertheless, the CIA has been subject to a crackdown on sexual harassment and discrimination. According to a recent NPR report, 15 employees were found to have committed acts of harassment last year. Moreover, there appears to be ongoing dysfunction throughout the agency when it comes to addressing harassment. Even though the agency is said to be enforcing a zero-policy towards harassment, many instances go unreported because of the lack of enforcement. 

For an agency that conducts much of its business in secret, with employees who are trained to manipulate people and lead secret lives, it was surprising for CIA officials to send a workforce message reaffirming the agency's policy. Director John Brennan essentially explained that acts of harassment and retaliation are "more than just unprofessional, painful and wrong - they are illegal and hurt us all."

Brennan's message also indicated that 15 of 69 complaints made within the last year were found to be true, and reflected some of the common elements of dysfunction found in a toxic workplace. Nevertheless, the message provided examples of discipline meted out to unidentified CIA employees, including one supervisor being removed from the job and ordered to under leadership and harassment training for his actions; and one officer being sent back to the U.S. from an overseas post for sexually harassing a female colleague.

The story is important because it is an example of how harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace.

Source: Netnebraska.org "CIA cracks down on employee harassment; internal postings call actions insufficient," PBS NewsHour, June 10, 2014

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