By Ellen Bremenstul
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Liaisons facilitate communication between locally employed (LE) staff, post management, the Department of State’s Office of Civil Rights, and the EEO counselor to provide continuity of EEO presence at post and serve as an additional resource. Embassy Beirut recently revitalized it’s EEO Liaison program, recruiting and training new volunteers and using them in several key areas.
In 2019, biannual harassment training, PK 405, became mandatory for all Department employees. EEO Liaisons in Beirut developed and presented an Arabic info session, and provided a paper copy version of the course in Arabic for employees who either did not have computer access or who did not have adequate English language skills to complete the course.
The EEO Liaisons at Embassy Beirut include a diverse team, including embassy security force (ESF) member Joe Aad, USAID Program Management and Technical Specialist Elias Alhaddad, U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative Grants Program Manager Arabella Barbir, ESF Administrative Assistant Aline Diab, and ESF members Guy Khairallah and Elias Safi. Together, the team held day and night sessions to best meet the needs of the employees—many of whom work night and weekend shifts.
The EEO Liaisons also provided confidential interpretation to non-English speaking LE staff who wanted to discuss EEO concerns with American Bureau of Global Talent Management staff—a project known as the Safe Zone. The need to be heard and understood is universal. For some employees, the fear of retaliation prevents them from speaking out against workplace harassment.
“Both long-serving and newly employed local staff, were relieved to learn about their rights, in addition to their duties, within the U.S. Department of State,” said Arabella Barbir, a member of the Beirut EEO Liaisons. “They felt privileged to have channels of communications that would ensure their safety and respect within their workplace. Additionally, they were glad to know that Washington’s Office of Civil Rights is ready to hear their voices, to make sure that all staff work in an environment that is free from toxic behavior and harassment.”
Ellen Bremenstul is an office management specialist at the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil.