The Forest Service needs to take further steps to clarify and enforce its policies against sexual harassment and misconduct, an IG report has said following an audit of the agency’s Pacific Southwest region.
Auditors reviewed 125 such complaints filed in the region over 2014-2017 and found that 18 of them were not reported by managers and supervisors within the required 24 hours—and in 13 of those cases, the agency took no action against them for missing that deadline. “This occurred because FS supervisors and managers did not appear to fully understand the 24-hour reporting requirement, and FS lacked specific guidelines on disciplinary actions to take when addressing untimely reporting,” a report said.
They also found two and possibly three cases in which employees were hired into supervisory positions despite having histories of harassment or misconduct; hiring officials relied on reference checks with the employees’ former supervisors, who did not disclose the misconduct, the report said.
Further, in four of 11 cases studied in which allegations were substantiated, the disciplinary action was less than the guidance in the USDA table of penalties and in three of those “officials did not adequately document their justification for deviating” from that guidance.
The report said that management agreed with the findings and the recommendations to address them.