Sexualized office culture prompts fish hatchery firings

Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Four Washington state workers at a fish hatchery have been fired after an investigation by outside consultants hired by the Department of Fish and Wildlife found a sexualized office culture at the hatchery that led at least one woman to take a job at another location.

The employees at the Wells Hatchery complex near the small northcentral city of Pateros were fired last week following a June investigative report that found that the hatchery’s manager did not stop “locker room talk,” by subordinates, according to a report Wednesday by the News Tribune and Northwest News Network.

The fired employees were fish hatchery specialists Scott Moore, Abel Gonzalez and Dana Marsh and their boss, fish hatchery complex manager Jayson Wahls.

The report by a consulting firm found that behavior at the Wells Hatchery included making sexual jokes, asking “crude, inappropriate” sexual questions of employees and commenting on the bodies of women who visited the hatchery.

The consulting firm did not conclude that anyone had been sexually harassed, and Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Botka said that the agency is not pursuing criminal charges.

One woman who left the hatchery for a seasonal position at another hatchery told investigators that the main reason for her departure was “constant, daily sexual banter” and negative comments from Moore and one of the specialists about her work and the work of other employees.

The report also said that several people who have recently left the Wells Hatchery said the sexual atmosphere was “part, or a significant part of their reason for leaving.”

Fish and Wildlife Director Jim Unsworth told the news organizations that the report showed graphic language that left him “startled and taken aback.” He said the behavior was unacceptable and that firing the four managers was the proper response.

He said he is considering an agency-wide look to see whether fear of reporting misbehavior is common. The firings come after the same news outlets reported last week on a separate 2015 workplace investigation that found a sexual office culture among some in the Fish and Wildlife department’s upper ranks.

That report of a sexual culture among some at headquarters states it went on for more than a year because nobody reported issues to top management or human resources.

The employees can appeal their firings through their union. A phone message left with the union’s attorney, Rhonda Fenrich, seeking comment was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Miners Complex tops 500 acres in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Nine lightning-caused fires force trail closures and warnings 21 miles east of Darrington. No homes are threatened.

FILE — President Joe Biden arrives for a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. Biden abandoned his campaign for a second term under intense pressure from fellow Democrats on Sunday, July 21, upending the race for the White House in a dramatic last-minute bid to find a new candidate who can stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of race, endorses vice president Kamala Harris

The president announced the decision on social media Sunday.

Granite Falls ‘10-foot alligator’ is actually a tegu named ‘Tazz’

Anybody who spots the docile lizard, last seen near Granite Falls, is asked to notify 911, so Tazz can be reunited with owner.

Photos by Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Gabby Bullock sits on her bed in a room she shares with another housemate on June 14 in Everett.
‘We don’t have openings’: SnoCo recovery houses struggle with demand

Advocates say the homes are critical for addiction recovery. But home prices make starting a sober living house difficult.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Food safety team defends its work: it’s a ‘high pressure, thankless’ job

Management tried to set the record straight about long permit delays in Snohomish County.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Global tech outage leaves a mark on Snohomish County

The CrowdStrike software update hit some systems at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and briefly disrupted 911 operations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.