US Forest Service Finds 34 Cases Of Sexual Harassment After Internal Review: Daily Caller

Some of us have wondered why the Daily Caller was the only media outlet to report on the Tooke affair. It turns out that they have reported on sexual harassment in the Forest Service previously, most recently only a few months agao, 11/20/17 here:

After decades of denying it, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has finally acknowledged it has systemic problems with sexual harassment.

“Since implementing an updated anti-harassment policy in September 2016, the agency has carefully reviewed and resolved over 400 cases of alleged harassment,” the USFS said. “Of the 400 cases, Forest Service has substantiated 83 cases of harassment including 1 sexual assault (that employee was removed); 34 cases of sexual harassment (employees were removed/terminated, suspended or received reprimands depending on the offense;) and 51 employees were found to have engaged in other, non-sexual harassment.”

The Daily Caller first exposed widespread sexual harassment at the USFS in February 2014, and since the issue was covered by the New York Times, Sharyl Attkisson and the Huffington Post, along with a 2016 hearing in the House Oversight Committee.

The story has examples:

Whitmer said she worked as a firefighter in the Bureau of Land Management, before moving to a hotshot crew at the National Park Service and then the USFS, experiencing harassment at all three.

“During work hours, while in travel status in hotels, and in many cases during after-hours partying on government compounds I felt harassed and pressured to have sexual relations with supervisors,” Whitmer said of the harassment at USFS. “To survive as a female, I knew early on I would be expected to accept the culture or leave. For years I did try to just do my job and ignore the negative aspects of the culture.”

“I recall on one of my first fire assignments I walked into my hotel room, we were in travel status and my squad boss had let himself into my room and was drunk on my bed inviting me to have sex. A few years later something similar would happen with a Captain, laying on a bed drunk in a hotel room, again requesting sex. I would turn down these requests and confront the person and it was never taken seriously.”

Worse than that, she told The Daily Caller she was raped by a superior while working at the San Bernardino National Forest in 2011, and then even after reporting the rape, was forced to report to her rapist while working on a fire.

And apparently in November 2017 (hard to believe it’s been almost 50 (!!!) years since women started working in these kinds of jobs), there is now a reporting center:

“The USFS has taken bold steps to address incidents of harassment and is committed to providing a work environment that stresses respect for individual values and appropriate conduct among all employees. The Forest Service doesn’t tolerate harassment in the workplace.” The USFS said in its most recent statement. “On November 6, 2017, the Forest Service launched the Forest Service Harassment Reporting Center to build upon the agency’s efforts to address harassment.”

I wonder if there are federal agencies or the military that have “best practices” that could be adopted, or whether all such groups are equally behind the power curve. I also wonder whether the fire organization is worse than the rest of the FS in terms of culture and whether that needs to be addressed at the level of the interagency fire organization, so that when people go on fires they are all reading from the same set of rules and expectations.

5 thoughts on “US Forest Service Finds 34 Cases Of Sexual Harassment After Internal Review: Daily Caller”

  1. From E&E News today:

    House Science panel seeks sexual harassment probe

    Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter
    Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are seeking a federal investigation of sexual harassment by researchers funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and other agencies.

    In a letter today to the Government Accountability Office, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) cited “disturbing” cases of sexual harassment in academia and the scientific community, including publicly reported cases of assault.

    Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, federal agencies awarding grants to educational institutions are obligated to take steps to ensure those institutions do not discriminate based on gender.

    The committee said it is concerned over whether agencies are effectively complying with the law, due to potential “issues of staffing and overall organization.”

    “Equitable access to education and research experiences cannot be ensured for women in the sciences until gender discrimination, implicit bias and sexual harassment are no longer potential barriers to their success,” wrote Smith and Johnson.

    The committee requested GAO to examine procedures agencies have in place for identifying and addressing sexual harassment by grantees, including whether existing organization and communication protocols are adequate to comply with Title IX.

    The panel leaders also asked GAO to determine how many agency sexual harassment cases have been investigated for the past four years.

    Smith and Johnson cited a 2015 GAO report on science, technology, engineering and mathematics research grants that found some evidence of “disparities in success rates for women and men” among awards at DOE and the Department of Defense.

    The same report also said three agencies had inadequate data collection on the issue. At the time, DOE said it agreed with many of the findings but also raised concerns about some of the report methodology.

    The letter follows a bipartisan committee investigation last October into allegations that a Boston University professor sexually harassed and physically abused female researchers during research expeditions in Antarctica (E&E Daily, Oct. 27, 2017).

  2. Great report on this on the NewsHour today . It went into detail on the rape culture of the US Forest service and how rapists keep their jobs and victims get drummed out and attacked. You aren’t a man if you idly stand by while a woman is harassed and raped.


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