Survey: 1-in-3 Interior Employees Say They Were Harassed

A survey conducted at the U.S. Interior Department found that 35 percent of its employees say they were harassed or discriminated against in the past 12 months.

The anonymous survey of the department’s nearly 70,000 employees show 16 percent said they experienced gender-based harassment, 8 percent reported being victims of sexual harassment, and 9 percent described harassment based on race or ethnicity.

Those harassed said in about 40 percent of the cases no action was taken by the management or they were encouraged to drop the issue.

The survey, which more than 28,000 employees took part in, was conducted from January to March 2017. The employees’ answers covered the 12-month period before the survey was completed.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement released Thursday, that he has “zero tolerance for any type of workplace harassment.” He said he has directed department leaders to move quickly “to improve accountability and transparency with regard to this absolutely intolerable behavior.”

But a department spokeswoman declined to provide specific examples of supervisors or other employees who were fired, citing personnel rules.

The new survey follows findings released by the Interior Department in October that found widespread harassment within the National Park Service. About 40 percent of Park Service employees reported having been harassed in some way in the previous 12 months.

The findings “suggest there was a meltdown of the accountability mechanisms” at the department, said Jeff Ruch with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an advocacy group for government employees that has been critical of Zinke’s handling of harassment.

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