Sexual harassment at the Grand Canyon has been an ongoing problem for well over a decade, a report from a federal watchdog group said. Male employees working for the Grand Canyon National Park have been accused of sexually harassing females – both civilians and their own female colleagues – on guided hikes and river rafting trips, touching them inappropriately, propositioning them for sex and in general, making overtly sexual comments.
Writes The Associated Press on Jan. 12, via MSN News: “The report obtained by The Associated Press comes after 13 current and former Grand Canyon employees filed a complaint in September 2014 saying women had been abused over 15 years. It was released Tuesday by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General.”
The report shows that since 2003, a dozen employees have been disciplined for sexual misconduct – ranging from a written reprimand to termination – though the concern is not who was disciplined, but who, and how many, were not.
According to the AP investigation, a “longtime human resources official” said a policy of “laissez faire” has been informally in place for years. In other words, “what happens on the river, stays on the river,” the source said.
“No National Park Service employee should ever experience the kind of behavior outlined in the report, and it is even more disappointing because previous efforts to change the culture at the River District of the grand Canyon failed to improve working conditions,” NPS spokesman James Doyle said.
Among the allegations: An employee caught taking a photo up a woman’s skirt, another male employee grabbing a female’s crotch, and a group of male employees “twerking” up against girls at a river trip “dance party.” Alcohol fueled many of these allegations; up until recently the NPS allowed booze on river trips.
Adds AZ Central: “In separate management advisories, the Office of Inspector General criticized the Park Service on its hiring practices and for not safeguarding the identities of the people who filed the complaint in 2014. The letter was released to at least two people who were subjects of the complaints.”
“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,” wrote Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall.
Approximately 280 miles of the Colorado River that cuts through the Grand Canyon is managed by the NPS. Rafting and hiking trips put male and female employees and tourists together for lengthy amounts of time in isolated areas. Cell phone service is unavailable. Only a satellite phone can penetrate down into the deep gorges.
The secluded nature of the Grand Canyon trips appear to support a climate of sexual harassment, officials said.