Anti-Sexual Harassment Survey Highlights -Including Civil Program Data Update (December 11, 2019)

Dear NIH Family,

Over the last year we’ve been working hard to build a comprehensive anti-harassment program to foster a safe and respectful workplace at NIH and address harassment when it occurs. Providing an accessible, effective, easy process to report harassment; responding promptly to allegations to ensure immediate safety for all involved; investigating all allegations; and taking appropriate actions are critical to the success of this program.

Since implementing and communicating the NIH Policy on Preventing and Addressing Harassment and Inappropriate Conduct, the NIH Policy Statement on Personal Relationships, and the new process for handling allegations of harassment, the NIH Civil Program (Civil) has seen a 165% increase in traffic to the Civil website where you can report a concern.

In this calendar year, the program effectively responded to 271 cases and, working with Institutes, Centers, and Offices, took corrective actions that included cease and desist orders, removals, suspensions, counseling and trainings, among others. As compared with last year, Civil projects a 98% increase in the total number of inappropriate conduct cases reported to Civil and a 75% increase in corrective actions taken for misconduct of both a sexual and non-sexual nature in 2019. This increase indicates that more NIH staff understand how to report, and are more comfortable reporting, allegations of harassment. To accommodate this increased case load, the Civil Program has tripled its staffing and will continue to add resources as needed.

To educate NIH staff on the applicable laws, regulations, policies, and codes of conduct, the Civil Program delivered 102 anti-harassment training sessions to all levels of staff at 22 different NIH ICs on and off main campus, including in Baltimore, Montana, and North Carolina. The NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) updated the NIH mandatory anti-harassment training to encompass both the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) and Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) training with customized scenarios for various NIH workplace settings. We increased the frequency of this training from every two years to annually for all NIH Federal employees, trainees, fellows, and contractors. In addition, the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) is in the process of developing a training program specifically for trainees, a particularly vulnerable population for harassment, to ensure understanding of the NIH policies, emphasize trainee rights, and educate trainees on the reporting procedures.

I’m pleased to say that we also have the final analysis of the Workplace Climate and Harassment Survey, which was administered from January-March 2019. An executive summary and report will be shared with you in early 2020.  In the meanwhile,  you can review some of the key findings from this analysis, which confirmed some of the interim analysis and revealed new information, including:

  • One in five respondents experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment in the past 12 months;
  • The populations experiencing the highest incidence of sexual harassment are women, trainees, younger individuals, sexual and gender minorities, and individuals with disabilities;
  • Over half of respondents did not talk to anyone about their experience; and
  • Those respondents who did not consider their supervisors supportive and/or those experiencing incivility and bullying in the workplace were more likely to experience harassment.

Based on the survey findings, the NIH Anti-Harassment Steering Committee made recommendations to NIH leadership for additional measures that can be implemented across NIH. Recommendations include holding NIH leadership accountable for ensuring reporters are not punished for reporting, and for protecting the people they lead from harassment. Among the recommendations are:

  • Focused training for vulnerable populations to better understand NIH anti-harassment policies and reporting procedures;
  • Making witness/bystander training mandatory for all NIH staff; and
  • Enhancing training for supervisors and adding support of the anti-harassment program and policies to supervisor PMAPs.

An update on NIH’s own anti-harassment efforts for its staff will be shared with the Advisory Committee to the (NIH) Director (ACD) on December 12, 2019, at 3:00 p.m. ET. This presentation will be followed by the presentation of the ACD Working Group on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment final report to the ACD at 4:00 p.m. I urge you to watch the videocast to learn more.

We must continue to strive for a safer and more respectful workplace for all NIH staff to ensure that “harassment doesn’t work here.” 

With appreciation to all of you for your ongoing support of this important goal,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, NIH