Toxic workplace

Female Park Service workers report “sexual violence” during Grand Canyon river trips

NPS photo by Mark Lellouch. (CC by 2.0)

A federal investigation into allegations of harassment during National Park Service river trips through the Grand Canyon has found “evidence of a long-term pattern of sexual harassment and [a] hostile work environment,” according to a recently-released report. Park employees embark on weeks-long trips down the Grand Canyon’s narrow rivers for research, education, and maintenance purposes. These journeys take co-workers into deeply isolated regions, and according to a human resource manager, the attitude among some employees was “what happens on the river, stays on the river.”

The Interior Department’s investigation delved into allegations laid out in a 2014 letter of complaint from 13 female employees. One woman told investigators that a National Park Service worker yelled at her drunkenly, while holding an ax in his hand. Others claimed that a boatman on their team refused to shuttle them to their worksites if they did not respond to his sexual advances. The perpetrators are not named in the report, but four employees — three boatmen and one supervisor — are at the center of the investigation. Two of these men had been temporarily suspended for groping and propositioning female workers.

Since the original 2014 complaint, the Park Service has taken a number of corrective measures, such as enforcing mandatory briefings for all participants of river trips and banning the consumption of alcohol during the journey. The agency is considering other changes, such as nightly check-in calls over a satellite phone, and the installation of a “regional ombudsman” to deal with complaints. But at least one female employee, who spoke anonymously to the Associated Press, doubts the efficacy of these reforms. “It was a culture of victim-blaming perpetuated by all levels of management,” she said. “I repeatedly sat in meetings in which victims who had reported sexual violence were degraded and discredited.”

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

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