U.S. Department of Labor Policy Statement
On Harassing Conduct in the Workplace
Martin J. Walsh, Secretary of Labor
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL or Department) must strive to be a model workplace wherein public servants, drawn from the full diversity of the Nation, are cultivated to their highest potential and treated equitably with respect. We must recognize that the Department achieves its mission most effectively when all employees, including those from historically underserved communities, such as Black, Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, other persons of color, women, members of religious minorities, and individuals who are disabled or LGBTQI+, are encouraged in their performance through inclusion and development. One way we can do this is to build and maintain a workplace in which we uphold policies and practices to prevent, report, investigate and appropriately resolve allegations of harassing conduct. To create a workplace culture that acknowledges the harm of harassing conduct and promotes accountability when acting to resolve harassment or other forms of discrimination or retaliation, we must engage with intention and promote mechanisms to report misconduct. Furthermore, DOL does not condone retaliation against any employee making a good-faith report of harassing conduct, including witnesses or bystanders, and will address training and education needs of managers, supervisors, and employees in recognizing conduct that may be in violation of the Department's policy.
The Department has recently finalized the revised comprehensive anti-harassment program in Department of Labor Management Series (DLMS) 6 – Chapter 300, Policy & Procedures for Preventing & Eliminating Harassing Conduct in the Workplace (Policy & Procedures). The Policy & Procedures broaden the scope of prohibited conduct in order to promptly address and mitigate discriminatory and biased behavior before it rises to the level of unlawful harassment. The Department strives to prevent and eliminate harassing conduct at the earliest possible stage before it becomes "severe or pervasive," i.e., before the conduct violates the law.
The Department defines harassing conduct as any unwelcome verbal, written, or physical conduct that is based on race (including dress and grooming), color, ancestry, national origin (including ethnicity, accent, and use of a language other than English), religion or religious creed (including reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs or practices), physical or mental disability (including reasonable accommodation of physical or mental disability), genetic information, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, abortion, and related medical conditions and procedures), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, intersex conditions, age, parental status, marital status, political affiliation or any other prohibited factor, and/or retaliation for engaging in protected Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) activity (e.g., filing or participating in a complaint or otherwise opposing discrimination, including harassment; requesting a reasonable accommodation). Harassment includes behavior that can reasonably be considered to adversely affect the work environment (that is, potentially giving rise to a "hostile work environment"). Harassment also includes "quid pro quo harassment," conduct that generally results in a tangible employment decision based upon acceptance or rejection of advances or requests for sexual or other favors. The Policy & Procedures provide examples of
prohibited behaviors, including but not limited to the use of microaggressions or the everyday, subtle, intentional or unintentional interactions that may be offensive, demeaning, or biased towards members of historically disenfranchised communities.
The Department also prohibits retaliation against any employee for making a good-faith report of harassing conduct, cooperating with or participating in any investigation of alleged harassing conduct, or otherwise engaging in protected activity. Aggrieved individuals or alleged victims— and any witnesses participating in this process—should feel assured that the Department will act with sensitivity and uphold confidentiality to the greatest extent possible.
The Department is committed to taking prompt and effective action against harassing conduct if the Department is appropriately notified of this behavior. The Department prohibits harassing conduct at every level in the organization, including when the conduct is committed by administrators, supervisors, managers, co-workers, contractors, clients, or customers, and could offend an employee even if they are not the intended target. The Department prohibits harassing conduct in a variety of contexts, including off-site or off-duty, during official travel or at a work event, or even using social media.
Employees or contract employees engaged in DOL workspaces who believe that they have been directly or indirectly subjected to or have witnessed any harassing conduct should promptly report the matter to a person in their supervisory chain and/or to their agency Workplace Equality Compliance Office (WECO), or, for regional office employees, the Regional Administrator of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (OASAM) in the region where the conduct took place. Any applicants for employment with the Department who believe that they have been subjected to harassing conduct during the application process should report the incident to the WECO for OASAM. The Department's harassment policy applies equally to employees, applicants for employment, and DOL contract employees.
Supervisors and managers who observe or are informed of allegations of harassing conduct must act promptly and appropriately to address and mitigate harassing behavior. The Department will take appropriate corrective action against a supervisor or management official who fails to report allegations of harassing conduct or perform their obligations as set forth in the Policy & Procedures. To the extent permitted by law, the Department will also take appropriate corrective action against individuals who engage in harassing conduct, which may include training or counseling, or disciplinary action up to and including removal, depending on the circumstances of the harassment. In certain circumstances, the Department will determine whether to provide interim relief to employees who have been subjected to alleged harassing conduct while an inquiry is pending to ensure that further misconduct does not occur.
Filing a harassing conduct complaint does not replace an employee's EEO or other rights, including the right to file a negotiated or administrative grievance. Employees are not precluded from filing EEO complaints (or negotiated or administrative grievances) concerning allegations of harassment while also filing a harassing conduct complaint with their agency's WECO. Reporting harassing conduct under the Policy & Procedures described above does not constitute filing an EEO complaint with the Civil Rights Center and does not pause the timeframe for timely filing an EEO complaint.
As the Secretary of Labor, I am committed to creating an environment that encourages and supports all Department personnel, including management, staff at all levels, non-career appointees, and contract employees, to report when they experience, are witness to, or are made aware of alleged discriminatory, biased, or harassing conduct. When we work collectively towards empowering our employees, the Department benefits. We will succeed in our efforts to eliminate harassment if we promote awareness, steadfastly commit to the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and take swift action to hold accountable those who engage in harassing behavior contrary to these articulated standards that improve our ability to serve the American public.
MARTIN J. WALSH
Secretary of Labor
Last Updated: September 22, 2022