Friday, August 10, 2012

Sexism AND Abuse of Power?

As I peruse the articles [1,2,3,4] and the court document [5] regarding the lawsuit filed against Department of Homeland Security [DHS] Secretary Janet Napolitano by James Hayes, former ICE director and now a special agent in Immigrations and Enforcement, I get a really creepy feeling. In part, because these articles are quite shocking and reveal a sexual harassment that goes beyond a glance, brush, or a word said in private where circumstantial might be your best evidence, to brash, in-your-face public humiliation that is easily documented by many. The other reason that my stomach sinks is the lengths to which the attempts to cover this sexism went. Everyone [as always] should take a good hard look at what is contained in Hayes V. Napolitano Case 1:12-cv-00825-ABJ [5]. The attempts to punish this individual fiscally and mentally for trying to report sexist behaviours were not only inexcusable, but again, easily documented.

Dora Schriro
 While many lawsuits might contain statement involving hearsay or events that are extremely difficult to prove or counter, Hayes V. Napolitano lists approximately 75 line items of sexual discrimination by Janet Napolitano, Dora Schriro and Suzanne Barr including but not limited to: replacing Hayes with the less qualified Schriro who had no federal law enforcement experience, moving three DHS male offices including their nameplates to the men's restrooms, promoting and rewarding men for participating in sexually charged games, using a subordinate's phone to call a high-ranking female employee that he had a "crush" and "fantasized" about her, screaming sexual obscenities at a male employee in a hotel room. While some may be more difficult to prove than others, many of these are going to be pretty simple to pin down in today's era of high tech and documentation. I found it interesting that the response of Brian P. Hale, the Director of Public Affairs for ICE, the people hit hardest by the suit, was to state that the sexism suit is "unfounded." [6,7] One news magazine has even reminded us that Dora Schriro was the Director of Corrections for both Arizona and Missouri, thus had law experience. However, the lawsuit clearly states that Schriro was unqualified because she had no FEDERAL law experience.[5,6]

Suzanne Barr
  The remainder of the 170 plus lines of  Hayes V. Napolitano lists the severe consequences befalling James Hayes once he suggested he was being discriminated against. As with the allegations of sexual discrimination, although some may be difficult to prove, many of these accusations should be extremely easy to document. The main complaints include: threatening to send the plaintiff to be employed in San Juan on a conference call, trying to demote Hayes within the agency, telling him that jobs in the agency were not available when they were open and less skilled persons were permitted to take them, telling Hayes not to attend a Leadership Council Meeting because "it would be awkward for everyone involved," within 30 days of stating his wishes for an EOE complaint, Napolitano filed or re-opened six investigations of conduct on the plaintiff - all of which were eventually resolved as either "no substance" or "insufficient evidence," intimidation by superiors, loss of finances, and forced removal to another agency at a lesser position in New York. One would think if you were going to be so bold as to be on either side of this fence you would cover your behind. Evidently, Hayes has covered his. His lawsuit reads like a documentary - names, dates, cases files. It also reads like a horror novel. We are trained in our work places that the EOE, sexual discrimination education and other grievance procedures will keep us safe from this type of upper echelon behaviour. How terribly ironic that the government we expect to enforce those laws is accused of committing by far one of the worst abuses of power I have seen in years.

Having recently written and discussed misogyny in US politics, let me assure you, I am no believer that a woman cannot compete in the workplace. However, as the old adage goes, if it looks like a duck...and this certainly looks not just like sexism [male or female it is all sexism], but plain, old abuse of power. In some ways, sexism can be an abuse of power, but Hayes v. Napolitano takes it much further. Intimidation, fiscal loss, and during one of Hayes' ICE investigations an investigator even termed it a "witch hunt." In this instance, I am afraid that Hayes may not only be entitled to his discriminatory suit, but since he filed with the EOE within the proper time frame, he could also rank "whistleblower"[8] status if ICE and DHS push him too hard or this becomes a federal investigation.

James Hayes
Finally, what this brings to light is, that if these allegations are correct, James Hayes is not the only individual experiencing this sort of discrimination. Will others come forward or not? Time will tell, I suppose, along with what evidence ICE has to provide. Still, since the DHS isn't talking and Hayes has outlined his case so explicitly, I would say the odds at this time are definitely in his favour.

[Addendum: You may have noticed the absence of some major networks - CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS from this blog. I did go to each site with the intent of perusing their articles and/opeds on this topic, but NONE of them had a single article after an extensive search.]

1 comment:

  1. Having been discriminated against myself, it makes me ill to see this happening at upper levels of government.