Energy & Environment

Interior chief reprimands employees on ethics, sexual harassment

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Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is reminding her department’s employees that sexual harassment and other misconduct by workers is unacceptable.

The email, sent last week to the Interior Department’s 70,000 employees, comes as Congress and the department’s inspector general are paying increased attention to allegations that the department’s employees are breaking important rules.

{mosads}“Such lapses in judgment or outright misconduct reflect poorly on the Department as a whole, divert resources from our important missions, and are not acceptable,” Jewell wrote, adding that the “vast majority” of employees play by the rules.

The Washington Post first reported on the letter. The department includes numerous land and conservation agencies, such as the National Park Service (NPS), the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

While Jewell touched on numerous issues like ethics and reporting rule violations, she focused particular attention on sexual harassment.

“I am particularly troubled by reports of sexual harassment and mistreatment of people in the workplace,” she said. “As a Department, we have no tolerance for this type of conduct, which is poisonous to the workplace, demeaning and damaging to the affected individuals, and completely out of line with our values.”

Jewell went on to say that “systematically addressing sexual harassment at the Interior Department is a priority.”

In January, an Inspector General report found that numerous women working at the Grand Canyon National Park had accused men of sexually harassing or assaulting them. It spurred the NPS to undertake an agency-wide review of sexual misconduct rules and systems to stop it and punish perpetrators.

A supervisor at a Florida park was accused last week of sexual harassment as well.

NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis was the focus of a House Oversight Committee hearing last week due to his decision to write a book about national parks without approval from ethics officials.

The House Natural Resources Committee is planning another hearing this week on various misconduct investigations at Interior.

Jewell told her employees to report any allegations of rule-breaking and to avoid punishing their colleagues who do the same.

“Retaliation is expressly prohibited by the law, and it runs counter to the culture of compliance and ethical responsibility that is expected of the Department and all employees,” she said.

Tags Interior Department Sally Jewell
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