Grassley: ATF whistleblowers allege sexual harassment, discrimination, intimidation by managers

Chuck Grassley Weekly Address 13From Press Release


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is asking about the handling of multiple claims of sexual harassment, bullying, gender discrimination and witness intimidation by senior Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) managers dating back to 2012, including alleged attempts to prevent independent oversight by the Inspector General.  The allegations from eight whistleblowers include threats, unwanted sexual advances, graphic sexual comments and attempts to retaliate against employees who disclosed the inappropriate behavior.

One whistleblower reported that in the fall of 2012, a then-Special Operations Division Deputy Chief yelled at her in front of subordinates and used her battle with cancer as justification for transferring her job duties to male counterparts.  This may be a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal employment.  She reported the behavior to his superior, the Special Operations Division Chief at the time, which was followed by increased retaliation, including threats to launch an internal personnel investigation against the whistleblower.

Other whistleblowers alleged that the same Special Operations Division deputy chief attempted to photograph several female employees despite their objections, and that he squeezed one woman’s thigh at a work related dinner event.  They also claim that he used derogatory and offensive language to refer to women in the workplace. One whistleblower alleged that she was placed on administrative leave after she was called as a witness to testify in an Internal Affairs investigation of harassment claims.

Many of the whistleblowers reported their claims to the Internal Affairs Division, which they say has been largely unhelpful. They allege that such disclosures are frequently suppressed for years, preventing further investigations by the Office of Inspector General. They also claim that ATF Acting Director Thomas Brandon and then-Director, B. Todd Jones were aware of the allegations of sexual harassment, yet the alleged harasser has since been promoted.

In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Grassley is seeking information on the procedures for reporting and responding to claims of harassment, whether they were followed, and how harassers are disciplined.  Grassley also requested statistical information, broken down by gender, on agency responses to such allegations.

CLICK HERE to see the full text of Grassley’s letter.