40 Percent of NPS Employees Experience Harassment

A newly-released survey finds a culture that discourages victims from speaking out

A raft floats downstream during a whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (Kyle George/Aurora/Getty)
30-34 years

On Friday, October 13, the National Park Service released the results of an anonymous employee survey about harassment in the workplace—and the results aren’t pretty. Over 38 percent of the more than 9,000 respondents said that they had experienced harassment in the 12 months before the survey. Nearly 20 percent reported harassment based on their gender, more than 10 percent reported being sexually harassed, and .95 percent reported being sexually assaulted.

“All employees have the right to work in an environment that is safe and harassment-free,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, according to a NPS press release. “I've removed a number of people who were abusive or acted improperly that other administrations were too afraid to or just turned a blind eye to. Under my leadership we’re going to hold people accountable.”

The survey comes after numerous reports of wrongdoing, harassment, and misconduct within the national park system in the past two years. It began in January 2016, with allegations occurring in Grand Canyon National Park, but employees at other parks soon began to speak and a NPS investigation quickly expanded to include the entire system.

The vast majority of those early allegations came from women, and the newly-released survey suggests that there may be many more who have yet to speak up. The survey was sent to all 18,500 employees of the national park service from January 9 to March 5. (Though employees hired after December 10, 2016, were not included.)

Nearly half of all employees responded. More than a third reported that they’d experienced some form of harassment in the previous 12 months. Of those, the most common forms of harassment were based on age (22.9 percent), gender (19.3), or race (9.5), or was sexual in nature (10.4).

In response, the Department of the Interior updated its anti-harassment policies to “address harassing conduct at the earliest possible stage.” That’s a good first step. But progress will also require a shift in how NPS employees talk about and view harassment in the first place. Nearly 40 percent of those who discussed the harassment with colleagues were encouraged to drop the issue, and more than a third were actively discouraged from filing a report or complaint. (Only 26 percent actually submitted an official complaint.) True change will require a culture shift within the organization.

Filed To: NPS / Gender
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