In calling attention to harassment in its ranks, the Interior Department failed to emphasize what happens to employees who complain about it, an advocacy group has said, saying that in many cases the result is either no action or retaliation against the victim.
The department recently released survey data showing that more than a third of employees had personally experienced harassment based on age, sex, race or other factors within the prior 12 months. Secretary Ryan Zinke said that four of those responsible have been fired and vowed a zero tolerance policy.
However, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility organization stressed that the survey also found that when employees complained, no action was taken in 64 percent of the cases and an official career action was taken against the persons responsible in only 5 percent.
Further, 38 percent of complaining employees “were encouraged to drop the issue” and nearly as many, 32 percent, were discouraged from filing a formal complaint or report. Also, 29 percent of employees “indicated leadership punished them for bringing the experience up” with 15 percent saying they were threatened with loss of employment.
“Harassment and discrimination can only persist with management concurrence or participation,” the group said, adding that “until Secretary Zinke targets retaliation as well as harassment, little will change.”