parks director jarvis speaking

‘Zero Tolerance’ for Sexual Harassment at Parks, says NPS Director

As news of numerous ignored reports of sexual misconduct in the National Park Service come to light, NPS officials are working to quickly implement a “zero tolerance” policy.

Director Jonathan Jarvis sent an email Wednesday to 22,000 employees, stating: “I want to clearly state that this means that when incidents of harassment are reported, I expect [Park Service] managers to follow up on those allegations.”

Moving forward, managers must investigate allegations of harassment and if found to be true, discipline employees accordingly, Jarvis said. These actions were not taken at either Grand Canyon National Park or Canaveral National Seashore where investigators found evidence of longtime patterns of sexual harassment that went ignored for years.

To lead this change, the Park Service promoted two managers last week whose mission is to turn around the Service’s “culture” of harassment.

Christine Lehnertz, superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, will take over at the Grand Canyon on Monday, replacing Dave Uberuaga, who retired in June.

Earlier this year, the Department of Interior’s Inspector General’s office released a biting report in which Uberuaga’s disregard for formal complaints was revealed. According to the report, several women made complaints that they were propositioned, bullied and subjected to retaliation when they refused unwanted advances from men on river trips.

Meanwhile, at Canaveral, the inspector general found several female employees who had complained of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment for at least five years.

A report released in June revealed the chief law enforcement officer had a pattern of making unwanted advances and inappropriate remarks to women while the Park Service ignored it. The officer remains employed by the park, but was ordered to work from home recently.

Lehnertz addressed the issues last week, saying “The sexual harassment at Grand Canyon National Park and Cape Canaveral National Seashore means that some of our NPS colleagues have suffered immeasurable harm, and the outrageous misconduct of a few park employees has driven dedicated professionals away from federal service.”

“We can’t wait another moment for this to change dramatically, or for the NPS to honestly, directly, and completely address these issues,” she wrote. “Grand Canyon National Park now has a responsibility to lead the National Park Service in eliminating the factors that have allowed such behaviors.”

Jarvis also told employees in his email they are setting up a confidential hotline for victims and witnesses of sexual misconduct. 

Posted in General News

Tags: National Park Service, EEOC, sexual harassment

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