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Labor Department found ‘severe’ sexual harassment at company led by Trump’s NOAA nominee – ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump’s nominee to go the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ran a household firm through which staff have been subjected to “widespread” and “pervasive” sexual harassment, based on an investigation by the Labor Division’s Workplace of Federal Contract Compliance Packages (OFCCP).

The investigation concluded that AccuWeather, the corporate then run by Trump nominee Barry Lee Myers, had a tradition of sexual harassment and discrimination that included undesirable touching and kissing by a male government, in line with a letter obtained by ThinkProgress by way of a Freedom of Info Act request.

Ladies who engaged in sexual relationships with senior male managers have been rewarded with “job-related perks,” the OFCCP letter concludes. Many ladies resigned relatively than submitting to the harassment, whereas others feared being “blacklisted” in the event that they filed complaints, the January 2018 letter states.

Though they have been conscious of the difficulty, AccuWeather officers “didn’t take affordable motion to stop and treatment harassing conduct,” the letter says.

On the time the alleged incidents occurred, Myers was the chief government officer of AccuWeather, which he ran alongside his two brothers.

In January of this yr, Trump nominated Myers — for the third time — to steer NOAA. The revelations concerning the investigation into AccuWeather increase considerations concerning the nomination, notably in mild of NOAA’s historical past of sexual harassment points.

“AccuWeather clearly denied the allegations and claims raised after the audit, and we proceed to disclaim the allegations and claims,” Rhonda Seaton, director of selling communications at AccuWeather, informed ThinkProgress on Saturday. Seaton added that AccuWeather cooperated absolutely with the OFCCP office audit, and listed a number of office initiatives she says it has put in place to make sure a “welcoming, inclusive, empowering” tradition.

The OFCCP letter to AccuWeather is called a Notification of Outcomes of Investigation. It particulars the findings of the division’s investigation right into a 2016 grievance relating to a hostile work surroundings on the firm.

AccuWeather, a authorities contractor topic to the federal Civil Rights Act, settled with the division, agreeing in June 2018 to pay $290,000 in claims to greater than 35 ladies, because the Middle Every day Occasions revealed in February.

The OFCCP investigation was prompted by a grievance alleging that AccuWeather violated its obligations beneath the nondiscrimination and affirmative motion provisions of its federal contracts by “creating and enabling a hostile work surroundings by subjecting staff to illegal harassment based mostly on their intercourse and sexual orientation,” in response to the letter.

The complainant additionally alleged she was terminated “due to her intercourse and sexual orientation.”

The letter particulars particular allegations of “[h]arassment perpetrated by a male government and one other male supervisor by ostracizing [redacted] from her work’s group; excluding her from conferences and emails, and making day-to-day actions extraordinarily troublesome, together with using profane and sexually specific name-calling by an government when referring to [redacted] and obscene references to [redacted] sexual orientation in communication with different staff.”

This kind of remedy, nevertheless, was not unique to at least one worker, the letter states. Over the course of its investigation, the OFCCP discovered “widespread sexual harassment” at AccuWeather.

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Greater than two dozen witnesses “spanning many various departments and in positions starting from administrative help to senior administration described illegal sexual harassment that occurred on the firm,” the OFCCP wrote.

“This sexual harassment was so extreme and pervasive, that some feminine staff resigned,” the letter states. The investigation additionally confirmed that “AccuWeather was conscious of the sexual harassment however took no motion to right the illegal exercise.”

AccuWeather stated it was “unaware of any harassing exercise,” in accordance with the letter. It additionally pushed again towards findings that it had a widespread, hostile work surroundings towards ladies, “arguing these allegations have been outdoors the scope of OFCCP’s investigation.”

Requests for remark to each Myers and the White Home went unanswered.

On the time the investigation passed off, AccuWeather’s 18-person government workforce was all males apart from the vice chairman of human assets. The corporate was led by three brothers: Joel Myers, founder and president; Evan Myers, chief working officer; and Barry Myers, chief government officer.

In line with OFCCP, AccuWeather’s coverage guide directed staff who wished to lodge a grievance relating to sexual discrimination to file an off-the-cuff grievance with the corporate’s Ombudsman Committee. “On the time of the investigation, nevertheless,” the OFCCP letter states, “the Ombudsman Committee didn’t exist and had not been lively for over two years.”

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The investigation additionally discovered that a number of senior male managers, together with at the least one government, had engaged in sexual relationships with subordinates. These ladies in flip acquired “job-related perks and profession alternatives that have been denied to those who weren’t in such relationships.”

One lady who was overheard by AccuWeather’s vice chairman of human assets (HR) complaining about “these sexual relationships” was “terminated days later,” the letter states. Others described being “fearful they might be terminated and blacklisted in the event that they complained about sexual harassment.”

A number of witnesses additionally informed the OFCCP that a “high-profile male worker of the Digital Media Content material and Operations division” had carried out “unwelcome touching and hugging and kissing feminine staff on the mouth.”

Regardless of a number of witnesses stating that they had complained to the vice chairman of human assets concerning the man’s conduct, and regardless of an inner investigation into one such allegation, “AccuWeather took no motion,” the OFCCP letter states.

The Labor Division’s Workplace of Federal Contract Compliance Packages concluded that claims made by the vice chairman of HR that she had no information of the worker’s conduct have been “not credible.”

The revelations about AccuWeather come as Barry Myers faces heightened scrutiny relating to moral considerations and potential conflicts of curiosity ought to the Senate affirm him to grow to be the top of NOAA.

Trump first nominated Myers as administrator of NOAA in October 2017. On the time, Myers was nonetheless CEO of AccuWeather and held shares within the firm.

Myers’ nomination was derailed in November 2017. The Republican-controlled Senate Commerce Committee permitted his nomination alongside celebration strains; nevertheless, a full Senate vote was not held earlier than the yr ended, which means he needed to be re-nominated in 2018. Democratic lawmakers on the time raised concern about Myers’ potential conflicts of curiosity, alongside together with his firm’s earlier push to successfully privatize the Nationwide Climate Service, which is run by NOAA — a transfer that may profit AccuWeather and different corporations that depend on authorities climate knowledge for his or her forecasts.

Trump once more nominated Myers in January 2018, however the Senate didn’t vote on his nomination in time. He has now been nominated to the place for a 3rd time.

Between his second and third nomination, Myers resigned from AccuWeather and bought his shares within the firm. It was additionally throughout this time that the corporate settled its sexual harassment claims.

Though it’s unclear how a lot Myers was concerned in or conscious of the sexual harassment incidences described by the Labor Division, he was head of the corporate through the time the incidents allegedly occurred and on the time the corporate agreed to pay the hefty settlement. As a part of the settlement settlement, AccuWeather pledged it will create a office tradition that didn’t tolerate harassment or discrimination.

Earlier this month, Myers’ nomination was accredited by the Senate Commerce Committee; it’s now as much as Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to name a flooring vote.

The complete Senate sometimes doesn’t query nominees as soon as committees have authorised them.

If Myers is confirmed, he’ll head a authorities company that — like AccuWeather — has confronted allegations of sexual harassment and, after years of inaction, took concrete steps to enhance the work setting.

In September 2015, a NOAA oceanographer complained that she had been repeatedly harassed aboard authorities scientific analysis vessels.

“Attempt working a half-million-dollar shipboard gyrocompass and multibeam sonar system whereas the captain of the boat shoves a meter stick between your legs, asking, ‘Are you moody as a result of it’s that point of the month?’” Julia O’Hern described in a Washington Submit op-ed.

However regardless that O’Hern reported a number of the incidents to her superiors, she says NOAA ignored the allegations.

As an alternative of addressing the harassment, O’Hern wrote, a NOAA official prompt “that I ought to have simply walked off the boat and refused to work. In fact, their worker had already threatened to fireside me if I refused to work or spoke to anybody, and the entire level was that I needed to do my job, not give up.

“It was soul-crushing to comprehend that I used to be anticipated to endure sexual harassment at sea as if it was no totally different than tough waters or lengthy hours,” O’Hern wrote.

By the top of that yr, each the Home and Senate unanimously handed the “Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Act,” which then-President Barack Obama signed. The regulation required NOAA develop a coverage to stop and reply to sexual assault and harassment.

Labor Division, OFCCP, Notification of Outcomes of Investigation to AccuWeather (PDF)
Labor Division, OFCCP, Notification of Outcomes of Investigation to AccuWeather (Textual content)