In a blistering list of allegations, current and former female firefighters have accused the U.S. Forest Service of a culture of severe assault, verbal abuse, physical taunts and threats of rape.
This morning's New York Times reports
that the complaints are the "latest in a number of race and gender disputes" in the Agriculture Department, the parent agency of the Forest Service.
One of the complainants, a former firefighter in the Sequoia National Forest, says her supervisor, who is still an employee of the Forest Service, put her in a choke-hold and tried to rape her in 2012. "In another instance, she said, fliers with the words 'Alicia Dabney is a whore' were left on the floor of a fire station," reports the Times
Still another firefighter told of a male colleague who actually served under her cursed at her in threatening language, but when she reported the incident, she was denied promotions.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service said it was reviewing the complaints.
The department has 180 days to investigate and/or settle the claims, but if there is no resolution, claims head to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and possibly federal court.
In each case, seven complainants said they faced retaliation when they formally reported the offense against them.
"The Forest Service takes these and all allegations of civil rights violations very seriously," wrote a spokeswoman for the department. "[The Forest Service] is committed to providing a work environment that is free of harassment and discrimination."