FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A survey of National Park Service employees found widespread complaints of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and top officials vowed to address it through training and enforcement.
Reports of misconduct have tarnished the image of the Park Service and its parent agency, the U.S. Interior Department. A sexual harassment scandal forced the retirement of a Grand Canyon National Park superintendent in May 2016 and led the park to abolish its river district. Investigators also have found problems at many of the nation’s premier parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, Canaveral National Seashore and Florida’s De Soto National Memorial.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told employees during a visit to the Grand Canyon on Friday that he would hold people accountable for behavior that has killed morale within the Park Service. He urged employees to report misconduct and keep going up the chain of command if their complaints go unanswered.
“A culture that tolerates harassment and discrimination is simply unacceptable to this administration, and we’re going to take action,” he said.
Nearly two of five Park Service employees surveyed this year had experienced some sort of harassment or discrimination over a 12-month period, according to the department. More than 10 percent of employees were sexually harassed. The survey also looked at discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity. religion and disability. About 19 percent of employees reported gender harassment. Less than 1 percent reported sexual assault.
Acting Park Service director Mike Reynolds apologized to employees who had been victims, saying the agency will do more to support them. His and Zinke’s remarks were broadcast to employees across the country.