The National Park Service manages 84 million acres in the United States, including locations in Tennessee. The service functions within the Department of the Interior, led by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has publicly pledged to take strong action against sexual harassers within federal workplaces under his control. A man currently holding the highest position at the NPS due to no one being nominated to lead the agency has fallen under investigation after an anonymous complaint about his behavior.
The Office of the Inspector General has yet to publish its conclusions about the deputy director’s conduct, but he has issued an apology via a staff-wide email. He said that he would hold himself to a high standard as a leader. He promised to set a better example and promote a respectful workplace.
According to the anonymous complaint, the official grabbed his genital area while telling a story to another employee in a hallway that allegedly involved him acting out urination on the wall. The conduct has not yet been established as sexual harassment, but the standard set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission describes sexual harassment as conduct with sexual overtones that could make a work environment hostile or offensive.
An internal survey at the NPS has identified sexual harassment as a widespread problem. In 2017, Zinke dismissed four Interior Department employees for misconduct.
This incident illustrates how internal investigations of sexual harassment can take time and require that allegations be taken seriously by upper management. A person experiencing unwanted sexual advances or other lewd conduct that makes a workplace hostile may want to ask an attorney for advice. An attorney may provide insights about potential legal violations and pressure an employer to correct the situation. When appropriate, an attorney might file a lawsuit to pursue financial damages for the person.