APG integrates EEO, SHARP support services

The integration of Equal Employment Opportunity, or EEO, services into the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Resource Center, or SHARP SRC, represents one more way both entities are committed to providing more comprehensive and consolidated services to all APG employees and leaders. | U.S. Army CECOM photo

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The integration of Equal Employment Opportunity, or EEO, services into the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Resource Center, or SHARP SRC, represents one more way both entities are committed to providing more comprehensive and consolidated services to all APG employees and leaders.

Introduced by the APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, 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, Communications-Electronics Command director of Equal Employment Opportunity, and Tracy Marshall, APG SHARP Resource Center program manager, the integration effort has been met with great acceptance and expectation.

“I’m not aware of any other installation integrating SHARP and EEO,” Etheridge said. “However, with appropriate resources and agreements in place, the integration can enhance APG overall capabilities and services. The integration of an EEO official into the SRC is intended to streamline the process to address sexual harassment allegations by aggrieved civilian employees. It 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.”

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,” Marshall said. “This includes the Special Victim Counsel, the Judge Advocate General, the Criminal Investigation Division, 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 of providing our community with the kind of quality care and consideration they are entitled to.”

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 is already underway. Etheridge 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, Etheridge 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. That situation is now remedied.”

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 as impediments to timely information sharing between key agencies, and 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. “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,” Marshall said.

APG’s Sharp Resource Center is located on the second floor of the Janet M. Barr Soldiers Support Center, Building 4305, Susuquehanna Avenue, Aberdeen Proving Ground. The SHARP Resource Center’s 24/7 hotline number is (410)322-7154.

By Mary Grimes, CECOM