Maintaining a Safe Work Environment (memo)

December 13, 2017
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health

Sexual harassment is a topic of growing concern in many workplaces, including the scientific community.  As the nation’s leading medical research agency, NIH must not allow any form of workplace misconduct to compromise our mission.

I am unequivocally committed to maintaining a safe and civil organizational culture in all NIH-supported research workplaces and scientific meetings.  Harassment, bullying, intimidation, threats, or other disruptive behaviors are unacceptable and will be handled with administrative and/or legal action, as appropriate.  Actions that run counter to our mission and goals will be met with consequences, no matter who the offender.

To ensure an environment where all employees are treated with respect and dignity, I have directed the following initial steps. In 2018, we will:

  • Expand the Civil Program portfolio to improve how we investigate and address allegations of harassment across the organization. 
  • Issue a new Chapter of the NIH Policy Manual, NIH Harassment and Workplace Violence, providing information and resources to help eliminate workplace harassment.
  • Administer a Workplace Climate and Harassment survey to provide baseline metrics of workplace interaction and the effect of harassment on careers.  The results will support the creation of an awareness campaign, guide new training strategies, and help NIH attract and retain talented individuals in the workforce.  The survey will also identify steps for implementing change.

All employees have a shared responsibility to help ensure that NIH maintains an environment that is civil and respectful of all individuals.  The attached Policy Statement outlines the NIH-sponsored resources available to you.  This memorandum and the attachment provides generalized advice; if you have questions regarding the options to address a particular circumstance, please contact one of these resources. 

The current national conversation regarding harassment serves as a reminder that we should treat our colleagues with the same dignity and respect we expect to be shown to us.  Let’s work together to ensure a safe and civil work environment at the NIH. 

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health