By Michael Bastasch, DCNF
Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a new plan to combat the “widespread and pervasive culture of harassment and discrimination” at the National Park Service, according to a release.
Zinke and National Park Service (NPS) acting director Mike Reynolds held an all-staff meeting at Grand Canyon National Park where they unveiled a series of policies aimed at preventing and rooting out sexual harassment.
Zinke’s announcement comes as Hollywood deals with sexual harassment accusations against prominent film producer Harvey Weinstein. Dozens of women, including famous actresses, have come forward with allegations again Weinstein.
NPS has been mired in secual harassment cases for years, especially among Grand Canyon employees.
For example, an Interior’s Office of Inspector General report published in January 2016 found a “long-term pattern of sexual harassment and hostile work environment” at the Grand Canyon District National Park Service.
Male Parks employees withheld food, groped and took photos under the dresses of female employees who refused sexual solicitations, the IG found. Those incidents were rarely punished.
Former Grand Canyon employee Kelly Martin detailed incidents of sexual harassment to against her Congress in 2016, including one instance where she caught a male Park employee watching her shower.
“The supervisory response to my three sexual harassment incidents was one of minimizing my experience and attempting to resolve the situation with a mere apology from the perpetrator instead of imposing more appropriate disciplinary action,” Martin told lawmakers.
At a June 2016 hearing, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported “more than 20 claims of sexual harassment and misconduct were reported at offices in the Grand Canyon River District and Canaveral National Seashore during the past 15 years.”
“Yet, [former NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis] has not fired any of the perpetrators involved despite NPS’s zero tolerance policy,” the committee outlined.
Zinke said those days are over.
“I’ve removed a number of people who were abusive or acted improperly that other administrations were too afraid to or just turned a blind eye to,” Zinke said in a statement.
“Under my leadership we’re going to hold people accountable,” he said. “We are also fixing the problem of victims being afraid of retaliation or inaction by codifying the right for victims to report abuse to any manager in any location across the Service, and by bringing on an independent, investigative partner.”
The Interior Department also released the results of a survey showing that 38 percent of NPS employees experienced “harassment or discrimination of some kind while on the job,” according to the release.
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