HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Some three months after news came out that its director was reassigned for failing to take complaints of sexual harassment seriously, Hill Air Force Base is taking steps to fortify its Equal Opportunity office.
In a news release, Kendahl Johnson, from Hill’s 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs office, said the base is forming a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office, which will “strive to ensure a culture of inclusion” while developing and retaining a high-quality, diverse workforce.
“We are all very excited for this long overdue change,” said Samantha Morrison, Equal Opportunity director, in a statement. “We’ll have the opportunity to be more proactive and will be more effective in breaking down barriers, advancing equity and helping increase inclusion of all Team Hill members.”
The new DEI office will be overseen by a single leader who works directly under the 75th ABW commander, Col. Jenise Carroll. A pair of new positions, including the DEI office director and a resource advocate, will be instituted as part of the measure.
Morrison took over leadership of the EO office in January and the DEI office is part of a greater shake up of sorts of the operation. In late December 2020, news came out that the then-director of the base’s EO Office was removed after failing to take complaints of sexual harassment seriously. According to documents released by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an Air Force investigation found that the former director had actively discouraged employees at Hill from filing EOO complaints, illegally modified complaints, gave false or misleading information to complainants seeking to report harassment, and failed to properly identify conflicts of interest.
The employee was not named in publicly available documents and the Air Force has not released the person’s name either. The Air Force said the employee had been reassigned at the same pay to a different office on base but will not hold supervisory authority.
The probe was instigated by five whistleblowers, including three who consented to the release of their names and two who chose to remain anonymous. The former director told one complainant that a report of sexual harassment by a supervisor wouldn’t “go anywhere” or “carry any weight.” The Air Force investigation also concluded the former EOO director illegally modified 10 of 11 complaints made by one of the whistleblowers and erroneously eliminated language in the other complaint, essentially rendering the charge meaningless.
The former director also was found to have incorrectly informed one complainant that they were not entitled to remain anonymous during the filing process.
Morrison said she wants to remove any stigmas associated with filing EO complaints and improve transparency.
“There should not be a stigma associated with seeking EO assistance,” Morrison said. “Employees should not fear reprisal for using the EO process and managers should hold employees accountable without fear of being involved in an EO claim.”
Morrison said her office will strive to be proactive, not just responding to complaints but making sure employees at Hill know their rights. She said continuing education and training will be a priority for her and the EO office staff.