Has sexual harassment touched California immigration agents?

California readers likely know that a head official appointed by the federal government is facing numerous complaints for her alleged sexual misconduct with employees. A lawsuit was filed by an employee of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement alleging that he was subject to sexual harassment by the agency's chief of staff, Suzanne Barr. The lawsuit, which asks for approximately $4 million in damages, has led to other complaints being filed against the same woman.

The recent complaints allege a wide range of inappropriate conduct by Barr. At least three employees have outlined incidents where she is alleged to have made sexual advances towards them. One complaint alleges that Barr called him while they were on a business trip and that she offered to perform a sexual act.

It's been reported that in 2011, ICE received 10 complaints for sexual harassment. In the two years prior to 2011, there were only four such reports. The ICE chief of staff, currently on administrative leave, has not made any comment regarding the current lawsuit or the other complaints filed against her.

Immigration officials in California and elsewhere have a difficult job in enforcing our immigration policies. Their job would only be made much more difficult if they were to become subject to sexual harassment by superiors. Such conduct can be highly detrimental to the efficiency of the department and is conduct that no employee should have to endure.

In order to combat such inappropriate conduct, an employee may be able to rely on the sexual harassment policies in place for federal agencies. Outside of that, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit against the offending party if circumstances warrant. A successful claim may provide the employee a work place free of unnecessary and illegal conduct and can ensure that they are able to perform their duties in a professional manner free of undue and inappropriate influence.

Source: KHQ-TV, "ICE chief of staff accused of sexual misconduct," Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan, AP, Aug. 25, 2012

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