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Widespread sexual harassment among national park workers

Category: Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment

California residents who enjoy the great outdoors often visit the Grand Canyon due to its close proximity and majestic vistas. The national park is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations, but some of the workers who provide emergency services for visitors and guide people on river trips have endured sexual harassment for more than a decade according to a report from the Department of the Interior.

The report was compiled following claims of widespread misconduct and sexual harassment from about a dozen park workers. Current and former National Parks Service employees say that female workers were routinely subjected to unwanted sexual advances, lewd behavior and inappropriate language. Fuel was added to the allegations by claims that supervisors were aware of the misconduct but were unable or unwilling to do anything substantive about it.

The National Parks Service says that sexual harassment is not tolerated under any circumstances, but the details of the report may seem familiar. Similar allegations prompted an investigation by the Department of the Interior in 2013, and accounts of widespread drinking and misconduct among Grand Canyon workers resulted in changes being made to the park’s operating manual in May 2014. However, park workers say that these stricter rules were rarely enforced, and they point to continued alcohol consumption by employees while on duty as evidence of lax supervision.

Employers allow hostile work environments to develop and fester when policies designed to protect workers from harassment and abuse are routinely ignored without consequence. Workers in these situations may feel that filing a complaint will have little impact on their employers, but the sanctions provided by state and federal labor laws can be severe. Employment law attorneys can explain the legal protections that employees in California enjoy, and they may initiate legal proceedings on behalf of workers who are harmed when these rules are violated.

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