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House Committee Examines Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Forest Service

On December 1, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled “Examining Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).” The purpose of the hearing was to address ongoing misconduct, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination in the U.S. Forest Service and examine the USDA’s management of its Civil Rights Office and its handling of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) claims.

The hearing is in response to widespread media coverage and reporting of sexual harassment of female employees at the Forest Service. One of the witnesses, Ms. Denise Rice, testified in her capacity as a whistleblower about her own experience of sexual assault, reporting, and retaliation. 

The following witnesses testified: 

  • The Honorable Joe Leonard, Jr., assistant secretary for Civil Rights, Department of Agriculture; 
  • Ms. Lenise Lago, deputy chief of business operations, Forest Service, Department of Agriculture; 
  • Ms. Lesa Donnelly, vice president of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees/Federal Employee Advocate, former Forest Service employee; and 
  • Ms. Denise Rice, fire prevention technician, Region 5 Eldorado National Forest, Forest Service, Department of Agriculture 
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