WASHINGTON – More than one-third of employees at the Interior Department say they have been harassed or discriminated against in the past year, the department said Thursday.
Results from the department’s survey of its 70,000 employees, who answered anonymously, show that 8 percent reported being victims of sexual harassment and 16 percent reported harassment based on gender. More than 9 percent describe harassment based on race or ethnicity.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service reported the most incidents, with 40 percent of BIA workers and 39 percent of parks workers reporting some form of harassment.
The department released the National Park Service figures two months ago to highlight widespread complaints of harassment and workplace discrimination within the agency.
Federal investigators have uncovered problems at many of the nation’s premier parks, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Canaveral National Seashore in Florida. A sexual harassment scandal at the Grand Canyon forced the retirement of the park superintendent in May 2016.
The former Yosemite superintendent retired last year after allegations that he created a toxic work environment surfaced at a congressional hearing. Don Neubacher headed the California park for nearly seven years and spent 37 years with the park service. Yosemite is one of the nation’s oldest and most popular national parks, drawing more than 4 million visitors a year.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday he has “zero tolerance for any type of workplace harassment” and said he has directed department leaders to move quickly “to improve accountability and transparency with regard to this absolutely intolerable behavior.”
A spokeswoman declined to provide specific examples of supervisors or other employees who were fired, citing personnel rules.
“Generally speaking, those terminated abused their authority to intimidate or harass fellow employees. This includes but is not limited to sexual harassment,” spokeswoman Heather Swift said.
While the National Park Service stood out in terms of sheer numbers in the new survey – nearly 7,200 employees reported harassment in the previous year – high rates of harassment were seen across the agency.
Thirty-five percent of workers at the Bureau of Land Management and 31 percent at the Fish and Wildlife Service reported some form of harassment.
Harassment based on a person’s gender was the most common – nearly 29 percent – followed by complaints based on age (22 percent). Nearly 10 percent of complaints were based on race or ethnicity, 7 percent on disability status and 6 percent on religious beliefs.