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Interior Department announces harassment action plan

The U.S. Department of Interior has announced an immediate action plan to combat the widespread and pervasive culture of harassment and discrimination throughout the National Park Service.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the plan would ensure employees, especially managers, are held accountable when harassment is found.

A new NPS survey of employees found 38 percent of them had experienced harassment or discrimination of some kind while on the job. It also learned that 74.7 percent of employees who experienced harassment did not file a report or complaint about the behavior. (The survey was conducted by a third-party contractor called CFI Group.)

“From day one, I made it clear that I have zero tolerance for harassment in the workplace, and I directed leadership in the National Park Service to move rapidly to improve accountability and transparency,” Secretary Zinke said. “All employees have the right to work in an environment that is safe and harassment-free. 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. Under my leadership we’re going to hold people accountable.”

Zinke said the Interior Department would also codify the right of victims to report abuse to any manager in any location without fear of retaliation.

The NPS Work Environment Survey found that 10.4% of NPS employees experienced sexual harassment in the last 12 months, 19.3% experienced gender harassment, and 0.95% reported experiencing sexual assault. The report also looked at harassment more broadly, measuring harassment based on age, race or ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation and sexual assault. Overall, 38.7% of employees reported experiencing some form of harassment in the last 12 months and survey results indicate many experienced some form of harassment prior to the last 12 months.

The National Park Service also outlined a series of actions to increase accountability.

Those include standardizing and strengthening polices on harassment, increasing capacity to investigate and address harassment complaints, expanding training to support harassment prevention efforts, and support and collaboration with Employee Resource Groups.

Some parks affected harassment issues, including Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks, have conducted informal surveys and focus groups to better understand the experience of employees and respond locally to workplace dynamics where harassment has been documented.

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