A report released in late 2017 showed that at least 38 percent of Interior Department employees reported facing harassment or discrimination at the workplace. As a result, the Interior Secretary announced a zero tolerance policy regarding this type of behavior by agency staff. The mandate is expected to face its first test with the admission of inappropriate behavior by a top-ranking official at the National Park Service.
The incident, which was first reported by the Washington Post, occurred when the deputy director allegedly made obscene gestures in a hallway at Interior headquarters. The actions were described by an anonymous agency employee who witnessed the alleged action after P. Daniel Smith first took office in March. Interior Secretary Zinke reported the accusation to the Inspector General that same month.
Zinke promised to thoroughly investigate incidents like these since first taking control of the Interior Department. In 2017, he fired four agency employees for alleged inappropriate behavior, and in testimony to Congress, he promised to take serious action to root out the problem. P. Daniel Smith admitted to making inappropriate comments but said that his actions did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. He wrote, “I am very sorry for my mistake in telling this story and any discomfort it clearly caused.”
Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace have historically faced a great amount of difficulty getting their voices heard. While the Interior Department and other organizations are showing some willingness to correct this issue, victims are still encouraged to seek representation from an attorney in these types of cases. It’s the responsibility of a lawyer to protect the right of their client no matter how powerful their adversary may be.