Senior Defense Official Sexually Harassed Staff

Senior Defense Official Sexually Harassed Staff

Guy Roberts, a former assistant defense secretary for nuclear programs, resigned from his position in April. Still, it wasn’t really clear his reason for his leaving until the Pentagon report released in December. 

In February, a woman on his staff filed a sexual harassment complaint against him, alleging Roberts hugged, kissed or touched her and two other women, creating a hostile work environment. He also apparently made off-color jokes and remarks to other women working with him. 

Roberts says none of the women told him his behavior was inappropriate, according to the report. However, the Inspector General overseeing his department said at least one woman did inform Roberts that his actions were inappropriate. Roberts did admit some of his jokes were “lewd.” 

Fear of Firing

Whether at the higher levels of government or in the private sector, sexually harassed women may put up with certain behaviors –at least for a while –because they fear the alternative is getting fired. 

This is why the three female staffers subjected to Roberts’ unwanted physical contact and suggestive sexual comments say they did not act immediately, but one woman decided to file the report in February. 

The two other women later said they did not file a complaint because their professional reputations might suffer, harming their careers. One said that as a young woman in her position, it was important to take care of what you said, whether right or wrong. 

Whispers I Love You

The first woman to come forward said that Roberts hugged and kissed her when the two were alone, or when meeting or saying goodbye, going so far as to whisper “I love you,” in her ear. He made it clear to her that he was staying in an apartment without his wife, which she took as an invitation to join him there. Roberts also allegedly told her he wanted to see her in a bikini and asked her out on dates. The staffer said she informed Roberts that his behavior was inappropriate on various occasions. 

The other two women experienced similar touching episodes, and one said Roberts frequently commented on her appearance. The other said he hugged her “repeatedly” while on business trips, as well as during happy hour. 

18 Witnessed Interviewed

A total of 18 witnesses were interviewed during the course of the Inspector General’s investigation, along with the reviewing of 4,000 emails. Despite Roberts’ denials of inappropriate touching and doing anything other than making lewd jokes, the investigators determined these actions did take place. Some of the witnesses said Roberts was told about the offensiveness of his comments. 

Former Marine Corps Officer and Judge Advocate

It is impossible to believe that a man with Roberts’ professional history did not realize his actions constituted sexual harassment. Roberts formerly served as a Marine Corps officer, judge advocate, and staff officer, so that he would have undergone anti-sexual harassment training at some point. 

The report notes that in fact, stating that based on Roberts’ experience and training, he should have known the comments and physical contact were “completely inappropriate.” Roberts later said he “did not sense anyone was intimidated by my rank or position.”

Do you think you were harassed at work or by a co-worker? Visit our workplace harassment FAQ page for more information. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online or by phone at 877.858.8018. All inquiries are protected by the attorney-client privilege and kept CONFIDENTIAL. (There is never a fee for a consultation.) 

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Related topics: Government (11) | hostile workplace (29) | sexual harassment (50)


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