Leadership Corner

House hearing: Examining misconduct and retaliation at the USDA Forest Service

November 15th, 2018 at 4:00PM

Photo: Portrait of Vicki Christiansen in front of American & Forest Service flags.
Chief Vicki Christiansen, USDA Forest Service

As many of you may know, I am testifying today before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concerning allegations of misconduct and retaliation at the Forest Service. Since our agency last testified before the committee in December 2016, the Forest Service has worked diligently to create a workplace where all employees are valued, safe and respected.

I cannot say this enough: bullying, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation have no place in our organization. A safe, respectful work environment where everyone is valued for their contributions is the basis for everything we do at the Forest Service, the foundation for our success. A safe and respectful work environment is critical to the fulfillment of our mission.

During the hearing, I will reiterate our commitment to continue the hard work of improving our agency’s culture. I will make clear that our first priority has to be a workplace where every one of us is treated respectfully and with dignity, and no one fears for their safety—physically or emotionally.

I will tell the committee about the steps we are taking—the path we are on to become an organization where dignity and respect for everyone goes without saying. We are facing up to hard truths of our past, and we have moved to take action: we have overhauled policies, we are doing better at holding bad actors accountable, and we are working to support employees who suffer from other's bad behavior.

It’s going to be a tough hearing. Others who testify may misrepresent the Forest Service’s position. I understand they are sharing their point of view, but it in no way diminishes the actions we are taking to improve our work environment.

I will speak with pride about the work we are doing to create the agency we say we want. I have confidence in all of you, standing with me, to create the work environment we all deserve.

I encourage everyone to read a previous Leadership Corner article by Leslie Weldon, Senior Executive for Work Environment and Performance, for the specific steps we are taking to improve our agency.