EU agency hit with sexual harassment allegations

The European Institute for Gender Equality has become the latest organization accused of mishandling harassment complaints, thus allowing sexual misconduct to go unpunished.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
EU agency hit with sexual harassment allegations - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Few had expected this MeToo moment.

The Vilnius-based organization is accused of victimizing women twice -- once by allowing men to harass female co-workers and then by not treating their complaints seriously.

The agency's director didn't help matters when she warned against agendas by "militant feminist groups" and attributed some of the problems to "cultural misunderstandings," according to Lithuanian news agency BNS. That raised eyebrows among those who look up to the EIGE as the last agency that would blame victims or dismiss their complaints.

It's unclear what led to the predatory culture at the EIGE. Perhaps, as the director's comments suggest, it was an attempt to shed its feminist reputation, to be inclusive and have a gender-balanced team. Unfortunately, some of the men allowed to join that team may have damaged its reputation for years to come.

Details from the story:

  • Past and current trainees and staff at the European Institute for Gender Equality say male colleagues sent them intimidating messages, stalked them and solicited sex in exchange for career advantages for years.
  • Formal misconduct complaints were filed in 2014 against three male staffers. Two were upheld and resulted in departures from the agency. The third was found to have misused work time to pursue a colleague.
  • However, a comparison of EIGE's staff page between early 2014 and early 2016 show the disappearance of only one man's name from the staff list. 
  • An audit of the agency’s gender equality record, obtained by POLITICO, found that the issue of sexual harassment was “a source of animosity and discomfort among staff.”
  • Former and current staff say they have reported additional cases of intimidation, gender-based bullying and "contempt for feminism."
  • Four former employees told POLITICO they complained about sexism in the office to managers and at staff meetings, but that the reaction was tepid.
  • EIGE says it has a policy of “zero tolerance” of sexual harassment, but implementation depends on management's will.
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