Former COO of Armed Forces retirement home sexually harassed employees, DOD says


CEO of the Armed Forces Retirement Home commends members of the US Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office ‘for their diligent investigative work’ after a report concluded that the former chief operating officer of the home’s two continuing care retirement communities sexually harassed several employees and retaliated against one when she rejected his sexual advances.

“Most importantly, I commend the three employees who cooperated with this investigation and reported what was happening to them. No one should be harassed in the workplace – ever,” AFRH CEO Stephen T. Rippe said in a press release. “This case is particularly troubling because it involved the management of the Foyer. Our employees and residents should expect the best from their leaders, who must uphold the highest possible standards.

James M. Branham has resigned as COO in Washington, D.C. AFRH, which serves retirees and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses, on Nov. 9, 2021, according to the report. John S. Riscassi was named to replace him in December.

The report alleges that Branham engaged in general conduct in which he sexually harassed three subordinate AFRH employees.

“Mr. Branham’s comments and interactions with junior employees created an intimidating, hostile and offensive work environment that made them feel uncomfortable or caused them distress,” the investigators wrote.

AFRH officials declined to say whether legal action would be taken against Branham, according to an article in military times. The report was forwarded to Washington Headquarters Services for inclusion in Branham’s personnel file, according to the DOD.

Rippe said the report “makes it clear” that leaders have not held themselves to the highest possible standard, and he said he “strongly” supports the report’s findings.

“Despite this failure of one individual’s leadership, the report did not critique the home’s policies and procedures or offer recommendations for improvement,” he said. “The process has worked and our employees and residents should be reassured to know that we have zero tolerance for this behavior and, if it occurs, prompt action will be taken and consequences will follow.”

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