- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - 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 (https://bit.ly/2i6sFpD and https://bit.ly/2fLJ0iF ).

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.

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