Yellowstone Comes Down On Workers For Sexual Harassment And Other Misconduct

Following an exhaustive investigation by the inspector general, 10 Yellowstone workers in the maintenance department will face discipline for sexual harassment and other misconduct.

In addition to sexual harassment, the inspector general found that maintenance employees used government-issued charge cars for unauthorized purchases.

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk would not go into specifics relating to the misconduct or punishment, due to employee privacy. Wenk stated that punishment would vary from reprimand to firing.

Yellowstone National Park welcomes over 4 million visitors to “experience Wonderland — majestic geysers, amazing wildlife, spectacular waterfalls, towering mountains high alpine lakes, pristine rivers and much more that provide ample opportunity for exploration and photography.”

Behind this beautiful facade there remains an ugly underbelly. Yellowstone is one of several national parks in the midst of a scandal involving sexual harassment and misconduct.

The Montana Pioneer broke the story on September 7, 2016. The article detailed an interview with a Yellowstone employee, Robert Hester. He claimed that Yellowstone was a hotbed of sexual harassment and alarming misconduct.

In fact, Hester knew of one female employee that “never did anything … she was (in effect) paid for sex.” The woman drank every day and later suffered a nervous breakdown. Hester stated that sexual exploitation and retaliation for speaking up or reporting occurred for years.

Bison grazing near a stream at Yellowston National Park
Bison graze near a small stream at Yellowstone National Park. [Image by Robert Graves/AP Images]

As a result of the interview, Hester’s written testimony was obtained for the Congressional House Oversight Committee, which was overseeing the investigation of Yellowstone, as well as other national parks.

Yellowstone implemented sexual harassment training following the allegations, and additional training is in the process this summer. The question remains: will the training, investigation, and discipline be enough to change the “men’s club” milieu, reportedly pervading the National Park Services for so many years?

Bison block the traffic in Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park [Image by Matthew Brown/AP Images]

A study from the University of Texas at Austin concluded that sexual harassment training aided individuals in identifying cases of sexual harassment, but had no impact on individuals’ tolerance of sexual harassment.

[Featured Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]