“It’s time to acknowledge that we have a problem,” stated Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke after he fired four senior officials in his department for inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment.
Zinke made the announcement in a video he posted to the Department of the Interior’s website on Thursday night (see below). He used the firings to illustrate the condemning results of a survey about harassment and discrimination in the department, which revealed that 35 percent of Interior employees claimed they had been harassed or discriminated against in the past year.
Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift told ABC News that the officials who were fired “abused their authority to intimidate or harass fellow employees. This includes but is not limited to sexual harassment.”
“I’ve already removed four senior leaders that were guilty of inappropriate behavior and I will remove 400 more if necessary,” Zinke vowed in the video, adding, “Intimidation, harassment and discrimination is a cancer to any organization. However deep it goes, we will remove it from Interior.”
The new survey came after a National Park Service-specific study in October found that 38 percent of that agency’s employees have been harassed or discriminated against, according to a report in The Hill.
Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt blamed the Obama administration for not addressing the issue when he was in office.
“The previous administration failed to aggressively address these problems and it shows,” Bernhardt said in a statement. “The culture across the department will change.”
Each bureau now has 45 days during which they must submit plans in response to the results.
Interior employees are also being trained on how to investigate the allegations, and officials said that they would be adding new resources on the topic to internal department websites.
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