Zinke Fires Four DOI Employees in a First Step Effort to Change Agency’s Culture

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has fired four employees in what he promises to be a culture change to root out what he called “a cancer” plaguing the agency.

Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that he has fired four federal employees in an effort to eradicate what he calls “a cancer” at the agency.

A Culture Change

Zinke was referring to an apparent culture of harassment and intimidation at Interior that have been a “common practice”, as Zinke put it, something which he said must change.

“I’ve already removed four senior leaders that were guilty of inappropriate behavior, and I will remove 400 more if necessary,” said Zinke.

He went on to say that intimidation, harassment and discrimination are “a cancer” to any organization, and he said that “however deep it goes, we will remove it from Interior.”

He added, “In the past, the words ‘zero tolerance’ have been an empty promise. While past leaders at Interior have said the right things, there was very little, if any, action. When I say ‘zero tolerance’ I mean that these people will be held accountable for their abhorrent actions.”

Work Environment Survey

Zinke’s actions and comments are in response to survey results released by the agency which show that 35% of Interior employees were harassed or discriminated against in some way during the year preceding the survey.

The Work Environment Survey was sent during the period of January 9 to March 5, 2017 to all Interior personnel employed as of December 10, 2016. 28,203 employees responded to the survey which translates into a 44% response rate.

Results showed that 20.5% of employees experienced age-related harassment, 16.5% experienced harassment because of their gender, 9.3% because of their race or ethnicity, and 8% experienced sexual harassment. Other forms of harassment that were surveyed were religion (7.1%), disability (6.1%) and sexual orientation (3.6%). 0.74% of respondents experienced a sexual assault.

The agency under Interior that reported the highest prevalence of any form of harassment was the Bureau of Indian Affairs (40.2%). Interior’s Office of Inspector General had the lowest overall percentage of reports of any form of harassment (14.4%).

The infographic below illustrates other details of the survey results, and the complete survey results are available at https://www.doi.gov/employees/anti-harassment/reports.

DOI Work Environment Survey Infographic

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.