New Anti-Harassment Policy

Interior Team,

In December, I told you that, during my tenure as Secretary, we had begun taking a more aggressive stance against employees who engage in misconduct, including taking action against senior leaders for harassment or other inappropriate misconduct. I have made it clear to my management team that we have to take decisive action to hold employees accountable for misconduct. That decisive action includes removing employees when necessary. Since last December, agency management has been following my lead by aggressively tackling the harassment problem through discipline. My management team has also encouraged the Office of the Inspector General to open investigations into other claims that were brought to our attention. I want you to know that discrimination, harassment, and intimidation will find no quarter under my command.

Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt and I also directed that each Bureau develop an action plan to address its own specific harassment-related issues. Since that time, we have worked with Bureaus to achieve this goal and have finalized a new, comprehensive anti-harassment policy for the Department.

The policy enshrines our commitment to providing a work environment free from harassment by ensuring that appropriate officials are notified of, and can properly stop, harassing conduct. It also holds employees accountable at the earliest possible stage, before the conduct rises to the level of illegal harassment. The requirements laid out in the policy for both employee conduct and manager responsibilities take strong steps toward rooting out harassment at all levels of the Department.

Overall, my philosophy has been that “one-size-fits-all” ends up working for no one. Instead of a top-down approach, we solicited individual Bureau plans; we took this approach because we recognize that different Bureaus face different challenges. Employee feedback was critical in developing our final product.

To ensure that we effect real, lasting change, we will continue to monitor each Bureau’s efforts, so we can hold everyone, from senior leaders on down, accountable. This is a long-overdue culture change at Interior.

It is not enough to simply say that we want things to change. Past leaders have done that, only to watch as the problem persisted. By contrast, we have already taken a number of actions to back up our words on this topic. These include training nearly 100 employee relations and employment law practitioners on best practices for investigations of misconduct; issuing a guide on administrative investigations; and creating and updating an employee webpage with dedicated resources. 

Management has a duty to act. If you report harassment, your voice will be heard. You should not have to suffer silently—afraid of retaliation or isolation—when you are just trying to do your job.

How we implement our new policy will have a direct effect on the quality of our work environment here at the Department. That is why the Deputy Secretary and I are deeply committed to this effort. As I have said before, I want Interior to be the best possible place to work in the Government. Today is a major step toward making that vision a reality.

Thank you for your cooperation throughout this process,
Secretary Zinke