AFGE President J. David Cox will take a leave of absence during the investigation of allegations against him.

AFGE President J. David Cox will take a leave of absence during the investigation of allegations against him. Flickr user AFGE

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AFGE President Takes Leave Amid Harassment Allegations

The largest federal employee union will conduct an internal investigation into J. David Cox’s conduct after 10 current and former union employees told Bloomberg News of unwanted advances and inappropriate comments.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox announced Sunday that he would take a leave of absence following accusations from 10 people that he sexually harassed union employees in recent years.

Bloomberg News broke the story Sunday night, describing Cox’s alleged conduct as “well-known” within the union. Ten current and former employees told Bloomberg of a variety of inappropriate behaviors, ranging from lewd comments to unwanted sexual advances.

Brett Copeland, who briefly served as communications director for AFGE, told Bloomberg that shortly after moving into that position, Cox invited him to his hotel room, where he licked Copeland’s ear. Copeland quit as soon as he returned to Washington, D.C.

Others reported invitations to shower with Cox, and alleged that comments regarding employees’ bodies were commonplace.

Upon receiving a request for comment from Bloomberg News, Cox ordered an investigation of his conduct, recused himself, and announced he would take a leave of absence. Cox has denied the allegations.

“It is my life’s work to lift up my sisters and brothers in the workplace and I am truly sorry if I ever made anyone feel uncomfortable by my words or actions,” Cox said in a statement. “That was never my intention. That said, I cannot abide lies and scurrilous, politically-motivated attacks. I am a lifelong defender of due process and trust the investigation will sort the fact from fiction.”

Several of those interviewed by Bloomberg News suggested they did not immediately come forward to object to Cox’s conduct because they feared retaliation, as well as that the allegations would be weaponized by the Trump administration as part of efforts to reduce federal employees’ collective bargaining rights.

In a statement, AFGE said National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley will perform Cox’s duties during the investigation, which will be conducted by an independent committee of AFGE’s executive board, with assistance from both AFGE General Counsel David Borer and an outside investigator. The union said that the investigation will be “fair, impartial, free of bias and listen to the accusers.”

“AFGE’s greatest assets are our membership and our staff,” the union said. “Today, we will communicate our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy to all employees, as we have done in the past, to ensure each employee understands the policy and the avenues available to them to address such behavior particularly in light of the recent newspaper report. We are wholly committed to a thorough, fair, and expeditious investigation that will move forward in a way that’s consistent with AFGE’s values and ensures a safe, open working environment for all of our employees.”

(Image via Flickr user AFGE)