National Park Service survey finds widespread harassment

Nearly 40 percent of National Park Service employees experienced some form of harassment over a 12-month period, according to long-awaited survey results released by the agency.

The survey assessed sexual harassment, hostile work environment and gender discrimination in the nation’s parks, monuments and recreation areas. About 19 percent of respondents reported gender-based harassment; 10 percent said they encountered sexual harassment; and .95 percent said they experienced sexual assault. Some employees reported harassment based on their race, age or disability as well. About 50 percent of the Park Service’s permanent employees responded to the survey; a second survey, aimed at seasonal employees, is still in the works.

On Oct. 13, 2017, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, Park Service acting director Mike Reynolds and Grand Canyon National Park superintendent Christine Lehnertz discussed the results with Park Service employees in Grand Canyon National Park. In January 2016, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General found systemic sexual harassment among employees working in the River District of the park. A High Country News investigation showed that widespread sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination were occurring in parks across the nation, including Yosemite and Yellowstone.

Reynolds said that within 90 days, he planned to add more employee relations and ethics staff, as well as grow the two-person ombuds team, which fields employee complaints. Employees were also encouraged to speak to any manager they can find rather than going up their chain of command. Zinke said that he planned to ask Congress to revise rules so that park superintendents and other agency leaders have more authority to fire employees when there are repeated, credible reports of harassment.

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