Border Patrol Official Steps Down Amid Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
According to January 21, 2023, New York Times article, a senior United States Border Patrol official resigned from the agency following allegations of sexual misconduct toward women. An October 2022 investigation revealed the agent’s communications with women via government equipment were “inappropriate,” and details had allegedly been intentionally withheld from those investigating the incidents. Although precise details of the contacts were unavailable to the Times due to federal privacy laws, it was confirmed the agent no longer works for the Border Patrol after having worked there for over 20 years.
Another report from NBC News, which could not be corroborated by the Times, provided further details that the agent had been accused of pressuring a subordinate to perform sexual favors and that several other women had made similar allegations. The agent has since denied any wrongdoing and claims he resigns from the Border Patrol to “focus on [his] family and seek other opportunities.” Unfortunately, the process by which complaints of sexual harassment and other misconduct are raised within the agency has long been criticized, and perhaps this latest series of incidents will cause the Border Patrol to consider the way it handles internal investigations and complaints of harassment in a work environment where more than 95% of the employees are men.
Organizations Must Take Greater Steps to Protect their Workforce
As more and more organizations and government agencies strive to become more diverse and inclusive, it is clear that homogenous work environments such as the Border Patrol tend to be fraught with issues. Even the sparse details emerging from the Times and NBC News reports show that the Border Patrol has long faced problems handling complaints. Organizational methodology concerning receiving and handling complaints is a crucial tenet of a cultural improvement philosophy centered around the Speak Up and Listen Up principles Syntrio has promoted as essential to organizational culture in recent years.
When women and minority candidates read about issues occurring in homogenous workforces, the drive to find diverse individuals to fill open positions stalls; for that reason, organizations of all sizes must ensure their reporting (or hotline) procedures are in line with the hope that employees never need to use them. Yet, the procedures are welcome upfront and apparent to those who find a need. Further, organizations must take the stance that they will listen up to concerns and take immediate action when an issue is brought to their attention. In the Border Patrol’s case, the reports make clear that months and years went by before anything was done. This type of “turning the other cheek” to allegations of misconduct causes stories such as this one to become much more significant than they would have been had the behavior been stopped before a hostile work environment was evident.
Toxic Culture Permeates all Levels of Workplaces Across the United States
Federal agencies should set the standard for culture within the United States workforce. Yet, they are often accused of burying stories and hiding claims of sexual harassment and assault. When the officials making the decisions look, think and act like those accused, it is far more likely that the complaints and stories will be buried. Organizations of all sizes must engage in a complete program of not only sexual harassment and assault prevention training but also incorporate education on the need for diversity, equity and inclusion, civility and respect, and awareness of the need to speak up (and for the employer to listen up) to complaints about inappropriate behavior (illegal or not). Only when organizations embrace the idea that employees will be more comfortable working in an environment that gives credence to their concerns will they be able to maximize the attraction and retention of quality talent.
Syntrio can Help Combat Inappropriate Workplace Behavior of all Kinds.
We would appreciate partnering with your organization to create tools to combat inappropriate workplace behavior. Syntrio has developed an industry-leading hotline for use by employees in organizations. When combined with our top-of-the-line library of education around the dangers of working in an organization with a toxic culture, you will remain ahead of the game and prepared to receive complaints that can be addressed well before a matter reaches a level of concern requiring a formal complaint to an administrative agency or litigation. Better yet, your employees will work in an environment that is safe and intolerant of harassment or discrimination.
We look forward to hearing from you to discuss further how we can assist your organization.