It was set up to fail.
The Department of Education office that substantiated just 1.5 percent of 471 sexual-harassment claims was established to keep complaints from going to the more forceful federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to a veteran union rep.
“They wanted control over these complaints, so they invented a subsidiary of the DOE to control the initiation and outcome of a case,” said Betsy Combier, a former United Federation of Teachers rep who now advises teachers facing charges by the Department of Education. “The [DOE Office of Equal Opportunity] is there to make sure no one goes to the EEOC, where the case would actually get an independent hearing.”
A rep for the EEOC said New York City agencies may refer cases to it, but he could not provide numbers for how many actually were.
The DOE office substantiated just seven of 471 sex-harassment claims it investigated between July 2013 and 2017.
Mayor de Blasio defended the paltry number Wednesday, claiming there is a “hyper-complaint dynamic” and a culture of people lodging complaints with ulterior motives.
Advocates slammed de Blasio on Thursday for the retrograde defense.
“What he should have said is that addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault are top priorities and that, as the leader of our city, he is fully committed to restoring women’s trust and ensuring their safety,” said National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter president Sonia Ossorio, adding de Blasio’s remarks were “disappointing” and a “disservice.”
A lawyer who represents sexual-harassment victims said it was hard to believe the mayor’s comments came from the same guy who travels around the country to spread a progressive agenda.
“That’s crazy. You may expect that more from a large corporation than from a man who considers himself the most liberal person on the planet,” said Maimon Kirschenbaum of Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP, which handles discrimination cases.
City officials insisted all harassment complaints are “thoroughly” investigated.
“The DOE’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management treats every allegation of discrimination with the utmost seriousness and thoroughly investigates complaints,” said spokeswoman Toya Holness.
The city is hiring 11 new OEO investigators, which will bring the total to 18, officials said.
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