Female researchers for the U.S. Antarctic Program have reported that they are routinely subjected to sexual harassment and assault. Further, they report that their superiors back in the U.S. have done little to investigate their claims, put a stop to the misconduct, or punish the offenders.
In 2022, the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that oversees the U.S. Antarctic Program, published a report on sexual harassment at its Antarctic bases. In that report, 72 percent of female employees reported that sexual harassment was a problem in the Program, and 59 percent said they had been sexually harassed by a male colleague while in Antarctica. The women surveyed for the NSF Report said that the base is male dominated and is characterized by heavy drinking and isolation from civilization. These characteristics create a hotbed for sexual harassment.
No support from management
According to the female employees, the toxic culture in the U.S. Antarctic Program continues in part because the project’s superiors at NSF turn a blind eye to their complaints. An Associated Press investigation found many cases where an Antarctic Program worker reported being harassed or assaulted, only to be ignored and forced to continue working side-by-side with their harasser(s). Others have reported retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.
For example, one woman has said that NSF unlawfully terminated her after she reported being sexually assaulted. Another woman reported that nothing was done after a man on the base threatened to kill her; she was forced to carry a hammer with her at all times in order to defend herself. Yet another woman says when she reported being raped, her supervisor downgraded the allegation to mere sexual harassment.
Victims can use the law to fight back
Reporting incidents of sexual harassment and assault is a legally protected activity under the law. Employees who have previously been or are currently being harassed or retaliated against must consult with an expert employment attorney to discuss their rights. Contact Thatcher Law Firm at 301-441-1400 to schedule a consultation appointment today. www.ThatcherLaw.com.
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