More Than 1,500 Interior Employees Removed or Reprimanded for Harassment, Misconduct

My question is “I wonder if similar numbers for the Forest Service are available?”. This is from the Hill, here.

The Interior Department fired, suspended or reprimanded more than 1,500 employees for harassment or misconduct between 2017 and 2018, according to an internal email obtained by The Hill.

The actions are part of the department’s yearlong effort to enforce greater accountability, Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt told employees in a staff-wide email Wednesday.

The email, sent with the subject line “A Situational Update,” informed staff that new changes to address workplace concerns included developing action plans to curtail inappropriate behavior and expanding an ethics program within the agency.

“From day one, [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke and I have been committed to leaving the Department in better shape than we found it; this includes addressing employee misconduct and harassment and improving our ethics program,” Bernhardt wrote in the email.

In April, the department released its first comprehensive policy on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassing Conduct.

Bernhardt, in the email, urged staff to continue to come forward with any concerns.

“Despite these efforts, we can only take action when we are aware of misconduct or unethical behavior. For this to happen, employees have to be willing to come forward. I want you to know that your leadership is listening, and we are committed to holding individuals accountable when they have failed in their duties and obligations,” he wrote….

Last December a survey conducted by the Interior Department found that 35 percent of its workers were either harassed or discriminated against at work in the previous 12 months.

When such harassment was reported, the survey found, no action was taken or the individuals were encouraged to drop the issue about 40 percent of the time.

Earlier in October, Interior announced a plan to fight rampant sexual harassment within the National Park Service. Nearly 40 percent of Park Service employees reported having been harassed in some way in the previous 12 months, according to the agency.

“All employees have the right to work in an environment that is safe and harassment-free. 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,” Zinke said in a statement at the time.

4 thoughts on “More Than 1,500 Interior Employees Removed or Reprimanded for Harassment, Misconduct”

  1. Some of the numbers for the FS are available – there is a quarterly (?) disciplinary report that identifies disciplinary actions taken. I don’t recall harassment being on there very much – a lot of what I remember seeing on there was more like insubordination, misuse of sick leave, AWOL…
    I seem to recall some figures coming out around the time of the TV shows about FS harassment on the number of instances reported vs. the number where anything happened. And with the new “harassment hotline” (which I think I saw will cost the FS $7 million per year (!!!)), I seem to recall that more data is available along the lines of what you are asking about…

    • It sounds like it may be available, but not necessarily easy for outside folks to have access. Maybe more info will be forthcoming at the hearing Thursday.

  2. I’m afraid I’m wondering how many of those personnel actions were actually politically motivated, given the Administration goal of fighting the “deep state” (AKA “federal employees”). As far as “ethics” goes, I guess it’s “do as Zinke says, not as he does.”

  3. In the FY18 2nd Quarter Discipline Report, there were 39 instances of “unacceptable behavior”. The details on some indicate sexual harassment or bullying. Others are rather vague or just indicate “inappropriate behavior” towards a supervisor or co-worker. Of those 39 cases, 1 resulted in a termination, 5 resulted in removal, there were 17 suspensions of 14 days or less, and 16 resulted in a letter of reprimand. The bulk of the disciplinary actions for that quarter seem to have happened in R5, R6, ASC (Albuquerque Service Center) and Job Corps.

    If you look at the overall termination/removal numbers for FY14-FY18 (half of FY18 included), those add up to about 150 people – so nowhere near the DOI numbers.


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