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Preventing and Eliminating Workplace Harassment

Ending Harassment in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's most important obligation as an employer is to provide a safe and secure working environment for every employee. We take that obligation seriously. Any and all harassment is unacceptable and contrary to our values and conservation mission. It may also be illegal.

What is "harassment"?

Harassment is defined in The Department of the Interior (DOI) Personnel Bulletin, Prevention and Elimination of Harassment as unwelcome conduct, whether verbal or physical, including intimidation, ridicule, insults, or physical conduct that is based on an employee's:

  • Race,
  • Color,
  • Religion,
  • Sex (including pregnancy and gender identity),
  • Sexual orientation,
  • National origin,
  • Age
  • Disability,
  • Family medical history (including genetic information),
  • Status as a parent,
  • Marital status, or
  • Political affiliation.

Unwelcome behavior crosses the line into illegal harassment when

  • the behavior can reasonably be considered to adversely affect the work environment; or
  • an employment decision affecting the employee is based upon the employee’s acceptance or rejection of such conduct.

Employees are also protected by agency policy and law against retaliation for reporting harassing conduct; filing a claim of harassment; providing evidence in any investigation; or intervening to protect others who may have suffered harassing conduct, discrimination, or retaliation.

For full details on the DOI stance against harassment, see Prevention and Elimination of Harassment, (PB 18-01).

The Service will not tolerate employees being feel harassed, discriminated against, or retaliated against for engaging in a protected activity.  If conduct in the workplace is making you uncomfortable, don't suffer in silence. This page includes steps you can take and people you can contact for help.

Action for Victims

If you think you are being harassed on the job:

  • Tell the harasser that the behavior is unwelcome and must cease immediately.
  • Report such behavior immediately to your supervisor, a higher level official, or any management official you feel comfortable with.
  • Keep a written record, documenting as precisely as possible what happened, when it took place, the names of witnesses, your response, and any other information that may be helpful later.
  • Seek advice on how to deal with the situation from your Office of Diversity and Inclusive Workforce Management (ODIWM), Employee-Management Relations (EMR), or the DOI Ombudsman.
  • Learn about the (EEO) Complaint process, and file an EEO complaint with the ODIWM
  • Learn more about the PB 18-01 complaint process, and file a PB 18-01 complaint with EMR.

Action for Managers

  • Be sure that your own conduct sets an example, and is not such that you may be vulnerable to claims of harassment.
  • Take affirmative steps to ensure that your employees are not involved in harassment.
  • Communicate Service policy on harassment to your staff.
  • Make it clear that claims of harassment will be taken seriously, investigated promptly and thoroughly, and that appropriate discipline will follow.
  • Assure employees that you will treat complaints seriously and fairly.
  • Immediately contact your Servicing Employee Management Relations Specialist if a complaint of harassment is received.

The Action Plan

The 2017 Department of the Interior Work Environment Survey revealed disturbing levels of harassment at every bureau, including the Service—harassment far beyond what has been reported through official channels. Responding quickly to this urgent problem, the Service has developed a comprehensive, multi-year anti-harassment Action Plan designed to address the root causes of this problem. We are fully committed to protecting all employees and rooting out instances of harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

The Action Plan includes:

  • Aggressive actions to improve training for employees and supervisors, as well as active measures to track and handle reports of harassment more quickly and objectively.
  • Strengthening penalties for employees found to be harassing other employees, and ensuring that complaints are heard by an independent Service panel.
  • Taking steps to make it easier for employees to report incidents of harassment by setting up a hotline and web reporting mechanism – channels that will ensure employees voices are heard and acted on.
  • Opening a dialogue with employees at all levels of the organization to seek other ideas and methods to eliminate harassment in the Service. We are all part of the solution to this problem, and we need your help.

We recently published it at 227 FW 6 to establish operational guidance specific to respond to harassing conduct. This guidance supplements Personnel Bulletin 18-01 "Prevention and Elimination of Harassing Conduct," the Department of the Interior’s (Department) anti-harassment policy.