Stabenow releases Forest Service sexual misconduct report
The Agriculture Department’s inspector general found evidence that the U.S. Forest Service failed to address workplace concerns in several cases, according to a report released today by Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Included in the report are cases of:
▪ Promoting employees with histories of sexual misconduct and harassment;
▪ Failing to report complaints in a timely manner;
▪ Inadequately documenting justifications for disciplining misconduct at less than the recommended penalty.
Stabenow, along with a bipartisan group of members of Congress, had requested in 2016 that the IG evaluate whether the Forest Service effectively implemented initiatives to address these types of problems.
“I asked the inspector general to conduct this audit because of longstanding reports of harassment and abuse at the Forest Service,” said Stabenow.
“The report confirmed persistent patterns of sexual harassment and misconduct and a failure of the USDA to address this abuse in multiple cases. I intend to continue to use my oversight powers over the department to ensure that the inspector general’s recommendations are thoroughly implemented and that the culture of the Forest Service is changed once and for all.”
The new report examined 11 cases of substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct in the Pacific Southwest region of the Forest Service.
The inspector general said the Forest Service should:
▪ Provide training and guidance for reference checks and the 24-hour reporting requirement
▪ Ask specific questions regarding applicants’ histories
▪ Establish disciplinary guidelines for allegations not reported within 24 hours
▪ Establish internal guidelines for documenting the justification when deviating from the recommended penalty.