- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

DENVER (AP) - An investigation into falsified data at a federal laboratory in Colorado also uncovered bullying and a hostile work environment that persisted even after an employee complained to managers, a congresswoman said Tuesday.

Employees at a U.S. Geological Survey lab in suburban Denver were subjected to “offensive language and behavior” by at least one co-worker, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said during a congressional hearing.

It is the latest report of workplace trouble in the federal government. Investigators and employees have also alleged sexual harassment and bullying in the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.

Dingell said the reported harassment at the USGS Energy Geochemistry Laboratory in the Denver suburb of Lakewood did not appear to be sexual because both men and women were victims. But Dingell said it was still harassment, and managers did not act after a female employee reported it.

Dingell disclosed the alleged harassment during a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing into falsified data at the lab. Federal officials revealed the data manipulation in June, and Tuesday’s hearing disclosed little new information.

The agency said earlier the manipulation was done in part to correct calibration failures in the instrument being used, a mass spectrometer. Researchers around the world rely on USGS data, and it often shapes laws, regulations and policy. USGS has said it did not believe the tainted data affected any decisions by lawmakers or regulators.

A scientific integrity review panel looking into the falsified data uncovered complaints about the work environment while interviewing employees. Tuesday’s congressional hearing was the first time the complaints were made public.

USGS Deputy Director Bill Werkheiser told the committee he was deeply disturbed by the workplace allegations and that the agency had taken a number of steps to address them, including training.

After the hearing, USGS spokeswoman Anne-Berry Wade said two employees who were implicated in the falsified data were also believed to be contributing to workplace problems.

Wade said both have left the agency but she declined to identify them or say whether they were fired, citing privacy rules.

Wade said no one was disciplined for the alleged harassment because the employee who came forward did not want to file a formal complaint. Wade said supervisors could not take disciplinary action without a formal complaint, but she said she believes they informally spoke with the two workers about their conduct.

In February 2016, USGS permanently closed the section of the laboratory involved in the falsified data and the workplace complaints.

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Follow Dan Elliott at https://twitter.com/DanElliottAP . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/dan-elliott.


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