A history of Grand Canyon sexual harassment of female employees on river trips has been alleged. Male staffers at the National Parks Service location have been accused of touching their female counterparts inappropriately and propositioning them for sex, according to a new federal watchdog report.
The Grand Canyon history of sexual harassment states that a complaint was filed by a total of 13 current and former female employees in the fall of 2014. The complaint claims that women who worked at the national park have been sexually abused for more than 15 years, Arizona Central reports.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 12, 2016
Since 2003, approximately 12 male Grand Canyon employees have been subjected to disciplinary action over sexual misconduct complaints. The punishment reportedly ranged from a written reprimand being placed in their file to outright termination. Government investigators stated in the watchdog report that the disciplinary actions have not been consistent, that many women do not come forward to report the alleged sexual harassment, and that proper vetting of staff behavior incidents has not occurred by park supervisors.
The Grand Canyon sexual harassment allegations noted in the report involve claims that a “boatman” took photos up a female employee’s skirt, that a supervisor grabbed the crotch of a female staffer, and that “twerking” by park staffers occurred at a party on the last night of the river rafting trip.
A “what happens on the river, stays on the river” mindset by Grand Canyon staff supervisors has existed for years, according to statements made by a veteran human resources official cited in the inspector general’s report. Taking booze on the river rafting trips was permitted until a recent policy change enacted by park officials.
The 280-mile stretch of the Colorado River managed by the national park is used for recreational, educational, and emergency medical excursions. The lengthy river rafting trips require the male and female staffers to work closely together during the daytime and evening hours as the group sets up camp along the riverbank. The secluded nature of the river trips cuts the group off from all modern services with only a satellite phone being provided for emergency use.
The watchdog report focused solely upon Grand Canyon river rafting trips conducted by park employees, none of which are identified by name in the recently released document. In addition to the dozen or so trips organized by the park each year, many self-guided and commercial trips also occur on the same section of the Colorado River annually.
— Outside Magazine (@outsidemagazine) January 13, 2016
Before the policy regarding drinking on Grand Canyon river rafting trips was changed in 2014, employees were allowed to drink while on duty. An initial rule change permitted drinking by guides only in the evening while off duty. The park officials have not barred all drinking by staff during the rafting trips, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports. At least three high-level Grand Canyon officials told investigators that they were aware of the sexual harassment allegation claims over the year and are attempting to “change the culture” associated with the trips and feel banning alcohol will further those efforts. The river rafting trip excursion manager now has the authority to remove anyone who is not following the park rules.
The hiring practices of the National Park Service were also questioned during the sexual harassment investigation. The Grand Canyon park was called to task for not concealing the identities of the staffers who filed the sexual misconduct complaint in 2014. According to the watchdog report, the complaint letter was shown to at least two of the male employees who were the target of the complaints. One of the park workers who quit after being disciplined for repeated sexual harassment complaints was reportedly allowed to garner employment elsewhere in the park service and was permitted to volunteer on another river rafting trip.
“NPS must respect the confidentiality of individuals who report sexual harassment by not revealing their identities to others who do not have a legitimate, work-related need to know,” Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall stated in the sexual harassment report.
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[Photo by AP Photo/Sandy Huffaker, File]