National Park Service Employees Around the Country Allege Sexual Harassment by Supervisors

YosemiteNumerous professions in the U.S. remain “male-dominated,” despite decades-long efforts to achieve some semblance of equality in the workplace. The National Park Service (NPS) has been dealing with widespread allegations of sexual harassment at parks all over the country for much of 2016, and it is far from alone in this regard. In 2014, female employees of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) alleged ongoing patterns of sexual harassment by their supervisors. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gives employees the ability to fight back against this type of workplace behavior, but workplaces that still maintain a certain type of “male-dominated” culture present serious challenges.

Gender discrimination in the workplace manifests in many ways, from a refusal to hire a job applicant because of their gender and disparate treatment of employees based on gender to sexual harassment and other acts creating a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment violates Title VII when it is based on gender and when it either involves a demand for sexual activity in some form as a condition of employment (quid pro quo sexual harassment) or renders the workplace unbearable for the recipient of the behavior (hostile work environment).

Title VII and other anti-discrimination statutes require complainants to follow an administrative procedure before filing a civil lawsuit. In the case of a federal agency like the NPS, this often begins with an internal report. An order from the director of the NPS issued in December 2011 states that a complainant may make an internal report to the NPS dispute resolution office, or they may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A complaint to the EEOC, the federal agency responsible for enforcing Title VII, is typically the last step before filing suit.

The NPS manages the National Park System, which includes 413 sites receiving more than 307 million visitors annually. These sites range in size from a park in Alaska that covers over 20,000 square miles to a building in Philadelphia that occupies less than a quarter of an acre. The NPS employs more than 22,000 people, including park rangers, administrative staff, and a wide variety of scientists and researchers. Allegations of sexual harassment have occurred all over the country, with notable examples coming from major sites like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park.

Many of the sexual harassment allegations involve situations that seem to take advantage of the remoteness of NPS sites. For example, a wildlife biologist who went on an expedition in the Grand Canyon lasting several days alleged that her boatman sexually harassed her for almost the entirety of the trip. More than a dozen female NPS employees at Yosemite have recently filed sexual harassment complaints, and Canaveral National Seashore in Florida has reportedly been subject to four internal investigations since 2012.

None of the allegations from NPS employees have led to lawsuits so far, but other federal agencies have seen complaints lead to litigation. A class action filed by female USFS employees in 1973 led to an agreement to make reforms, but even after multiple return trips to court, problems persist in that agency as well. See, e.g., Donnelly v. Glickman, 159 F. 3d 405 (9th Cir. 1998).

The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent employees, former employees, and job applicants in New York City, helping them assert claims for unlawful employment practices like sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and sex discrimination. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our skilled and experienced team.

More Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Employer Accountable for Sexual Harassment that Turned Violent, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 19, 2016

Laws Regarding Sexual Harassment Still Apply at New York Holiday Office Parties, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 14, 2016

Comedy Scenes in Major U.S. Cities, Including New York, Take a Stand Against Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 30, 2016

Photo credit: GuyFrancis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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