When we think of America's great national parks we picture vast mountains, impressive geysers, and deep canyons, and not so much a creepy dude staring through a bathroom window at his female employee while she showers. But as the Associated Press reports that is actually an alleged, real-life occurrence at a couple of national parks. A congressional hearing held yesterday has revealed allegations of sexual harassment that spanned decades and created a "toxic" work environment at national parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.
At Yosemite alone, 18 separate female employees reported so much harassment from their employers and coworkers that a report by the Interior Department’s inspector general called the environment toxic. This apparently all came to light after an employee at the Grand Canyon reported that her male coworkers demanded sex from female employees and would retaliate if it was not forthcoming. (Sidebar: Does anyone watch Brickleberry? Because: parallels.)
One particularly creepy example of the alleged unchecked sexual harassment came from a 32-year employee of the U.S. Forest Service. Kelly Martin, who is now Yosemite's chief of fire and aviation management, told the congressional committee that when she worked at the Grand Canyon she caught her boss watching her shower through a window.
When she reported it, he apologized, but no disciplinary action was ever taken. Which, if true, simply boggles the mind. In fact, he was later promoted all the way to deputy superintendent of a national park. Even worse, this wasn't a one-time affair — he “was repeatedly caught engaging in voyeuristic behavior, all the while receiving promotions around the agency," Martin explained.
On an extra depressing note, we learn that 16 years ago many of the same claims were made by female employees at national parks around the country. And yet here we are again. “Sixteen years later, allegations have been made at Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks about possible harassment, hostile work environments and even sexual exploitation,” Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland observed yesterday.
So the next time you go to Yosemite make sure you bring a pair of binoculars — you may get a peek at a ranger demanding sex from his employees along with that firefall.