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DOJ Employees Decry Anti-LGBTQ Culture

Agency’s Pride group cites survey results showing poor morale among queer staffers

William Barr is sworn in as attorney general on February 14 of this year.
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As it turns out, the Mueller Report isn’t the only issue US Attorney General William Barr may be dragging his feet on.

Members of DOJ Pride, the group representing LGBTQ employees within the Department of Justice and the agency’s contractors, have penned an open letter to Barr asking him to address the department’s lack of an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement while airing complaints of a hostile environment for LGBTQ workers.

The letter, delivered on March 27 and signed by DOJ Pride president Jason Lee and the group’s board of directors, points to the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s requirement for an EEO statement and backs up its concerns about the work environment with the results of a survey conducted by DOJ Pride in October of last year, which was roughly four months before Barr assumed office following the departure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

An EEO statement should outline the department’s policy on discrimination in the workplace, and it’s not just LGBTQ employees who are asking for it. Several employee groups in February of last year had called on Sessions to present an EEO statement. But after he never followed through on that, DOJ Pride went on to conduct its own survey and found a number of concerns.

It is not clear how many members participated in the survey, but the responses cited in the letter were critical of the DOJ for fostering an environment that has been unwelcoming for LGBTQ folks across the department, with one comment alleging discrimination against gay and Latino agents attending the FBI Academy, which operates within the DOJ, and another comment stating that folks have often left the department due to its treatment of LGBTQ employees.

“It’s difficult and demoralizing not knowing if your employer really believes LGBTQ people should have antidiscrimination protections (housing, employment, accommodations) or not,” one respondent said in the survey.

The survey also revealed that just 31 percent of its members who participated in the survey agreed that the department valued its employees, while less than 10 percent of respondents believed that it “attracts and retains the best LGBTQ talent.”

“These statistics and statements point toward a set of issues the Department must address, including morale, recruitment, retention, and fair treatment,” the letter states.

Members of DOJ Pride are planning to contact the department’s liaison to the White House counsel’s office, Rachel Bissex, to further discuss the issues — and voicing eagerness to facilitate that process, saying they “are ready to assist in any way we can.”

It is not clear whether the DOJ responded to the letter, but spokesperson Kelly Laco told Gay City News on April 2 that the department “is committed to implementing policies that will ensure equal employment opportunity in all aspects of the Department’s daily operations and hiring practices, enforcing employment anti-discrimination laws, and fostering inclusive work environments that afford men and women from diverse backgrounds the equal opportunity to grow in their careers and support the Justice mission.”

Laco added that the department’s policy is to have a work environment that is free from harassment across a wide variety of categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

DOJ Pride did not respond to requests for comment on the letter.

Updated 6:27 pm, April 2, 2019
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