In Rare Move, Entire Committee Democratic Caucus Writes to Chairman Bishop Requesting Hearing on Workplace Harassment

Note: This has been updated from its original version to correct a bad link.

Washington, D.C. – In a rare move, the entire Democratic caucus of the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) today requesting a hearing on sexual harassment and other types of workplace harassment at the Department of the Interior (DOI) and its agencies. Bishop has rejected similar calls from Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, dating back to 2017, claiming the issue has already been discussed.

The letter, available at http://bit.ly/2LIb9BW, notes that while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has frequently touted a “zero tolerance policy” toward harassment and has taken some steps in the right direction, other policy changes and personnel moves have not always inspired confidence:

The reassignments of senior executive staff, a disproportionate number of which were minorities, are concerning. The hate speech and incendiary comments found on the public social media pages of DOI officials in high-ranking politically appointed positions are concerning. Oversight can help ensure that Secretary Zinke and his leadership team recognize and promote the importance of a diverse, inclusive workforce so that anti-harassment efforts are fully supported.

The hearing request follows the January release of #InteriorToo: Addressing Sexual Harassment Across the Department of the Interior Starts With Strong Anti-Harassment Policies, a report by the Democratic staff of the Natural Resources Committee that identified a number of clearly needed policy reforms at the agency and DOI level. That report is available at http://bit.ly/2BqAr1M.

“Workplace harassment isn’t an issue you get to ignore, at least not any more,” Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said today. “We know the scope of the problem, especially thanks to the DOI employee audit earlier this year. Democrats believe this calls for serious congressional oversight. Our Republican counterparts seem to think it can continue to be swept under the rug. We’ll miss crucial opportunities for improvement if they feel they don’t need to take this unacceptable behavior seriously.”

“Nearly one year ago, I asked Chairman Bishop for a hearing on this important issue,” Rep. McEachin said today. “Now here we are still in search of answers about what Secretary Zinke and other leaders at the Department of Interior plan to do to address the pervasive sexual harassment culture. The lack of response concerns me that the chairman is not taking this pervasive problem as seriously as he needs to. An oversight hearing is a reasonable and important step.”

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