First survey of its scope shows 35 Percent of DOI employees harassed, discriminated against
Date: December 14, 2017
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior released results from a Work Environment Survey that shows 35 percent of its employees were harassed or discriminated against in the 12 months preceding the anonymous survey. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, who have been on the forefront of instilling a culture change through swift personnel actions, transparency and a zero-tolerance policy, have issued a call for action plans from all bureau and office heads across the Department.
The Work Environment Survey was sent during the period of January 9 to March 5, 2017 to all DOI personnel employed as of December 10, 2016. CFI Group, a third-party contractor to the Department of the Interior, conducted the survey and developed the report that was released today. The survey results come two months after the National Park Service and Secretary Zinke announced the NPS-specific results from the same survey.
“From day one, I made it clear that I have zero tolerance for any type of workplace harassment, and I have directed leadership across the entire Department to move rapidly to improve accountability and transparency with regard to this absolutely intolerable behavior,” said Secretary Zinke. “All employees have the right to work in a safe and harassment-free environment. I've already fired a number of predators who other administrations were too afraid to remove or just turned a blind eye to. Under my leadership we don't protect predators. When I say ‘zero tolerance’ I mean that these people will be held accountable for their abhorrent actions.”
The survey, which is the first of its scope done across the federal government, was designed to assess workplace conditions that Interior employees experience, including the prevalence and context of all forms of harassment. 28,203 employees responded to the survey, or a 44% response rate. Results showed that 20.5 percent of employees experienced age-related harassment, 16.5 percent experienced harassment because of their gender, 9.3 percent because of their race or ethnicity, and 8 percent experienced sexual harassment. Other forms of harassment that were surveyed were religion (7.1 percent), disability (6.1 percent) and sexual orientation (3.6 percent). 0.74 percent of respondents experienced a sexual assault.
In a memo sent today to bureau and office heads, Deputy Secretary Bernhardt directed each to develop and submit a formal action plan within 45 days to address their specific survey results. Those plans, which will also be sent to the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, will include a schedule for accomplishing those actions and a description of how they will assess success.
“Intimidation, harassment, and discrimination are viruses within an operation, and have no place at Interior,” said Deputy Secretary Bernhardt. “The previous administration failed to aggressively address these problems and it shows. The culture across the Department will change. It’s up to all levels of management to ensure that our employees have a healthy work environment that empowers them to be productive and effective for the American people. And if managers are the problem, we will deal with of them.”
The Department has revised the performance standards for managers and supervisors to ensure that their future performance ratings will reflect their success or failure in holding employees accountable for harassing conduct. In addition, the new Department harassment policy which is now in draft form will implement a mandatory reporting process for reporting allegations of harassing conduct up the chain of command. This reporting structure will ensure that misconduct is not ignored and that appropriate disciplinary action is taken.
Since the Department received initial survey results, Interior has:
“These survey results don’t illustrate a new problem, but they will help us target where we must dedicate efforts and resources to fix a problem that has festered for years,” said Secretary Zinke. “We are now continuing the needed steps in creating plans across all of our bureaus and offices to ensure that every employee feels, not only safe on a daily basis, but also empowered to speak up should they feel harassed or discriminated against.”
Department employees who have experienced harassment or discrimination can find a wide variety of resources at DOI.gov/employees.