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NPS head could be fired for inappropriate gesture

The National Park Service is awaiting an inspector general's report of alleged sexual harassment by one of its highest officials. As the Department of the Interior has pledged a zero tolerance policy for harassment in the workplace, those in the Florida legal community are curious about the outcome of the report.

An NPS worker witnessed its deputy director pretend to urinate on a wall while in a public hallway. It was performed in full view of others. After the anonymous individual reported the sophomoric action, an investigation ensued. The agency's inspector general's office has finished its investigation and promised a public report on the incident by the end of June.

The incident may have been downplayed but for two factors. First, an earlier report determined that sexual harassment was prevalent within the NPS. Second, the Interior Secretary has promised a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment incidents. Several employees have already been discharged for conduct considered harassing.

The deputy director has already apologized for his actions and has stated that those under him have a right to expect more from a highly placed government official. However, he has also denied that the incident was harassing. Title IX long ago determined that sexual discrimination is not limited to direct employment discrimination. An action or series of actions that creates a hostile work environment can be considered sexual discrimination.

Attorneys experienced in the area of sexual discrimination and hostile work environments know that actions tolerated in the past may be considered harassment in the present. The 'boys will be boys" attitude of decades ago may now be considered actionable in court. Those who have been subjected to a hostile work environment should consider meeting with a qualified employment attorney to determine their rights are under current law.

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