The FDA Is a Complete Mess When It Comes to Dealing With Sexual Harassment 


A new report by BuzzFeed News has found that federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration are, if you can believe it, wildly unprepared to handle sexual misconduct claims.

BuzzFeed News reports that last year, University of California, San Francisco found that anti-Big Tobacco researcher Stanton Glantz had violated its sexual harassment policies and created “a work environment that was intimidating and offensive.” UCSF was not required to report the findings to agencies, including the FDA and the National Institutes of Health, who fund UCSF projects. However, Eunice Neeley, one of the women researchers who worked under Glantz, says she informed both the NIH and the FDA.

In a comment to BuzzFeed News, FDA spokesperson Nina Devlin said that the agency “does not currently have policies in place specifically addressing funding for grantees with sexual harassment charges.”

Women in male-dominated STEM fields are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse; women make up only 24 percent of people in STEM fields. According to a 2014 report by women’s nonprofit Catalyst, more than half of women who enter STEM fields leave within 10 years, a phenomenon fueled, at least in part, by “localized gender harassment early in their careers,” according to graduate students who spoke to the Nation.

Graduate students like Neeley rely on mentors, often men, as gatekeepers to opening up career paths and job opportunities.

Here are Neeley’s allegations, outlined by Buzzfeed below:

But Neeley, who left UCSF in June 2017, complained that Glantz bullied her, sexually harassed her, and discriminated against her based on her race (Neeley is black), religion, gender, and medical condition. Another person, whose name was redacted from a copy of the confidential investigation report, also filed a complaint. An investigation began that spring. Shortly after, Neeley told the university that Glantz might have been retaliating against her by proposing to remove her name from a study. Her complaints went on to form the basis of her lawsuit, filed in December.
By the end of the year, UCSF’s investigation did not find evidence that Glantz had violated its anti-discrimination policies, according to the report. It did find, however, that Glantz had violated sexual harassment policies, including “ample evidence” of “an on-going pattern of staring at women’s breasts,” despite warnings to stop going back as far as 2006. Five women told investigators that his staring made them uncomfortable. In addition, Glantz unnecessarily referred to subjects of a sexual nature at work, including an orgy scene in the movie Straight Outta Compton and a survey in Playboy magazine, despite being told that the survey had offended people and shouldn’t be used, according to the report.

Glantz has denied any wrong-doing.

The FDA is now “evaluating their policies in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA, NIH, and other health and medical agencies,” per Buzzfeed.

Meanwhile, although Glantz, according to the report, created a “work environment that was intimidating and offensive” that may have hampered the success of women who worked under him, it hasn’t much hurt his career: Glantz reached a $150,000 settlement with Neeley over the harassment claims in September. Later, the FDA awarded his center a $20 million grant.

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