The U.S. Department of Interior’s inspector general recently released a report revealing a history of sexual harassment by National Park Service guides during river trips at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The Report of Misconduct was spurred by a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in September 2014, from 13 former and current National Park Service employees alleging “discrimination, retaliation, and a sexually hostile work environment.” Here are the five big takeaways from the report:
1. The complaints were directed at four men (whose names remain confidential), and can be summarized as: inappropriate touching, inappropriate sexual comments, and inappropriate behavior, including propositioning for sex and engaging in retaliatory behavior — such as denying food and access to work sites — when advances were rejected. The incidents span a period of 15 years.
2. The Report confirmed the allegations, and surfaced new ones. In addition to the 13 original complainants, the inspector general identified 22 other individuals who reported experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment and hostile work environments while working in the GRCA River District.
3. Six of the victims (all women), reported sexual harassment to their supervisor, and disciplinary action was taken in three cases: (1) Boatman 1 received a written reprimand for propositioning a female co-worker; (2) Boatman 2 was suspended for 30 days for taking a photograph under a female co-worker’s skirt; (3) Supervisor 1 was suspended for 10 days for grabbing a female contract employee’s crotch. Boatman 1 and 2 have since resigned, and Supervisor 1 has since retired. Boatman 3 never received any formal disciplinary action, and is still employed in the GRCA River District. In all cases, the supervisor/manager failed to report the incidents to human resources — a violation of Department of Interior policies.
4. Two of the female victims believe they were retaliated against when Boatman 3 and two other employees made a sexual harassment claim against them for actions on a river trip in February 2014. The claim resulted in both women receiving 14-day suspensions for “twerking” during a dance party and for passing around a drinking straw shaped like a penis that a female contractor had brought on the trip. The Report claimed “insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation of retaliation,” but acknowledged that the disciplinary action taken against the two women seemed unfair and out of proportion when compared to other acts of employee misconduct.
5. As of March 2015, all river-trip participants in the GRCA River District must attend a pre-trip briefing and are prohibited from using alcohol, either on or off duty, during trips.