By Mary B. Grimes (CECOM) Public AffairsJanuary 18, 2017
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., -- The integration of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Services into the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Resource Center (SRC) represents one more way both entities are committed to providing more comprehensive and consolidated services to all Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) employees and leaders.
Introduced by the APG Senior Mission Commander (SMC), the integration effort speaks to a changing workplace culture that allows for increased data sharing, as well as greater collaboration and trust. For Neslie Etheridge, Director, Equal Employment Opportunity, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), and Tracy Marshall, Program Manager, SHARP Resource Center, APG, the integration effort has been met with great acceptance and expectation.
"I'm not aware of any other installation integrating SHARP and EEO. However, with appropriate resources and agreement in place, the integration can enhance APG capabilities. The integration of an EEO official into SRC is intended to streamline the process to address sexual harassment allegations by aggrieved civilian employees," said Etheridge. "It allows allows for both military and DoD civilians alike to have access to a type of 'one stop' facility for alleged sexual harassment and sexual assault services," he added.
According to Marshall, the EEO and SHARP integration initiative represents an effort to provide a seamless sexual harassment and assault prevention program. "The APG SRC already provides a hub for multiple support agencies and personnel. This includes the Special Victim Counsel, the Judge Advocate General, CID, the Sexual Assault Care Coordinator, Vet Center counseling and APG SHARP.There are still some areas we will have to continue to stay on top of with this consolidation -- particularly in an effort to ensure we achieve our goal providing our community with the kind of quality care and consideration they are entitled to," said Marshall.
To achieve that goal, Marshall pointed to efforts to reduce workforce frustration and increase reporting for a predominantly civilian workforce; improving quality of service through innovation and process improvement; providing the SMC with greater visibility and allowing for better trend analysis, as steps key to the integration process.
That process already underway, Nestlie said that an EEO official from the CECOM EEO Office has already been physically integrated into the APG-SRC. Addressing a challenge his office faced prior to the decision to consolidate, Neslie said, "Prior to the integration I was faced with untrained, non-EEO professionals meeting with aggrieved civilian employees regarding sex-based discrimination -- a protected category under Title VII of the Civilian Rights Act, as amended."
The EEO and SHARP consolidation effort is not without its challenges, Marshall said that while APG is moving forward with integration efforts, the need for improvements to the existing program cannot be ignored. The SHARP program manager pointed to resource challenges and current policy impediments to timely information sharing between key agencies, as barriers to overcome.
Laying out the blueprint for optimal integration of the two service bodies, Marshall said that identifying key events and training opportunities where EEO and SHARP can partner; performing cross-functional process analyses to identify opportunities for improvement in policies, and business practices; developing mechanisms for reporting trends, lessons learned and suggestions for improvement to SMC, AMC, Army and DoD in particular--with respect to the civilian population; and partnering with tenant organizations to recommend a comprehensive APG strategy to the SMC, as important to the process.
Marshall said that integration of support services for sexual harassment, sexual assault, and retaliation are imperative for a successful prevention and response program. She added, "Implementing mechanisms to harness collective knowledge, experience and communication will be vital to any and all efforts to provide the APG community with comprehensive and appropriate EEO and SHARP tools and services."