Lawmakers grilled officials of the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday about why one agency employee accused of sexual harassment by 17 women colleagues and two others caught watching porn at work more than one year ago have not yet been fired.
During a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday, the EPA’s inspector general revealed that accusations of sexual harassment had been made against the agency official as early as 2009. Instead of getting fired, the official was promoted.
Of the two EPA workers discovered watching porn on government computers at work, one was said to have been on sex sites two to six hours a day over the course of two years.
Like the first employee, these EPA workers were not fired for their offenses and instead were put on paid administrative leave—with each making around $120,000 a year, according to the IG.
The revelation sparked outrage by lawmakers last year and even inspired a legislation entitled TK that proposed a ban on federal workers watching porn on government property.
Now, lawmakers are going a step further and demanding that the employees be fired.
"It is well past time someone is held accountable for these management failings," said Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). “We have a duty and obligation to the American taxpayer to fire the people who are abusing the system."
EPA Acting Deputy Administrator Stanley Meiburg said the officials weren’t fired because the agency has been waiting for the conclusion of the U.S. attorney’s investigation into the alleged misconduct.
This isn’t the first time federal employees have been busted watching porn on the job. Last year, a Federal Communications Commission worker was caught watching up to eight hours of porn each week at work, the Washington Examiner reported. At the time, he defended himself, telling auditors that “he often does not have enough work to do and has free time.”
Of course, most departments have guidelines against inappropriate behavior, but Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) the sponsor of the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act says they aren’t doing a good enough job enforcing the rules.
“While there are rules in place at most agencies to ban this kind of unprofessional and unacceptable workplace behavior, it continues to take place. There is absolutely no excuse for federal employees to be viewing or downloading pornographic materials on the taxpayers’ dime,” Meadows said.
But even with if Meadow’s bill becomes law, it would be at agencies’ discretion to decide whether to terminate an employee for committing this kind of offence.
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