The Interior Department has launched a new zero tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination in its National Park Service workplaces–ranging from cubicle farms to the wide open spaces–after a survey revealed that two-fifths of its employees had experienced that type of misconduct while on the job.
The survey, conducted after incidents at parks revealed by the agency’s IG and others, found that over the prior 12 months, 10 percent of employees had been sexually harassed, 19 percent had experienced gender harassment and 1 percent had been sexually assaulted. In addition, 23 percent had experienced harassing behaviors based on their age, 10 percent based on racial or ethnic backgrounds, and 5-7 percent each based on religious beliefs, perceived or actual disability, or sexual orientation.
Further, three-fourths of those who experienced harassment did not file a complaint, largely because they thought nothing would be done and because they didn’t trust the process, the survey found. Those concerns may have been well-founded: of those who did make a complaint, only a third indicated that some action was taken–and those actions much more commonly “focused on the organization involved explaining rules to everyone” than taking an “official career action” against the person responsible.
“The NPS action plan is targeted to increase confidence by: increasing the number of ethics officers, strengthening management performance standards to ensure that leaders are held accountable on these issues, establishing a standard process that elevates harassment claims quickly for appropriate investigation and action, and ensuring that appropriate disciplinary action is taken,” the agency said.
The NPS also said it is defining more broadly what would be prohibited harassing conduct even if such behavior may not rise to the level of illegal harassment under EEO laws; expanding prevention efforts through more training of employees, supervisors and managers, including bystander training, civil treatment for leaders, and investigation methods for employee and labor relation specialists; and adding employees to improve its capacity to investigate and resolve allegations and incidents.