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Whistleblowers radio is presented in coordination with Marcel Reid and the Whistleblowers Summit July 29, 30, 31, 2016!
As of this date: Tom Villsack’s USDA has blocked all communications from whistleblowers.
Guests: Heidi Turpen and Atty: Michael McCray
Heidi Turpen – Biography
Heidi Turpen, age 22, was born in Laramie, Wyoming. She worked with the
Southwest Conservation Corps for two years as a trail worker and sawyer. She geared all her job experience to accomplish her dream of working for the Forest Service. She spent 5 years working in natural resources, building her resume to work for the Forest Service.
In May 2015 Heidi started her first season as a Forestry Technician in the timber program on the Sequoia National Forest in Region 5, California. Heidi was directed to live in coed barracks that included at least one male firefighter who insisted upon using the women’s toilet
and shower. From the start Heidi endured discrimination in the form of vicious rumors, sexual innuendo about sleeping with coworkers, and multiple incidents of a sexually hostile work environment. As the season went on Heidi was faced with sexual harassment by an Engine Captain in front of other employees. She later discovered that he had been
identified as a “repeat offender” and had been accused of work place violence by a subordinate employee. In another situation she and another female coworker were yelled at and intimidated by another male firefighter. She discovered this employee was also a repeat offender who had been accused of harassment and work place violence against women.
Heidi reported this sexual harassment, bullying, and workplace violence. She began being ostracized, bullied, harassed and physically threatened in retaliation by her roommates and other employees. She was stalked by a male employee while in town. Heidi continued to report sexual and non-sexual harassment as it continued daily. Finally reaching and
emotional breaking point, Heidi expressed safety concerns to management about living with the harassers.
As retaliation from management, Heidi was subjected to an illegal Forest Service law enforcement search of her barracks with a drug dog. She discovered the Law Enforcement Officer had done this to another woman who had reported harassment. Believing she was at risk for her safety, Heidi and another female coworker fled to another area on the forest and
stayed there at their own expense. As the harassment continued spreading so far to include office employees and members of the community, Heidi became fearful and severely depressed as she was sexually objectified and publicly humiliated by fire employees.
As ran act of retaliation Heidi was left alone in the wilderness while on duty by her crew leader without a radio or GPS unit. This was a safety issue. At this point Heidi felt unsafe working in the field when she did not have a radio or way to navigate in the forest.
Seeking personal relief Heidi sought medical attention. Both Heidi’s physician and EAP counselor wrote letters on her behalf expressing professional concern for her health and safety in this environment. Management continued to allow the harassment. Everyday Heidi went to work being shunned and isolated. Heidi was forced to hear rumors and cat calls out in public by other employees. Heidi was called names like “flavor of the week” and “public pool.” Personal jokes were made at her expense by office employees.
Heidi was approached by a firefighter after his layoff date and was told that he had been directed by “someone above his pay grade” that if he was to be seriously considered for a permanent position he had to cut off all contact with Heidi. He acquiesced until he was laid off. At that point Heidi realized the shunning and isolation had been management’s
way of retaliating against her.
Heidi faced being sexually harassed, retaliation, harassment, bullying, public humiliation, and physical threats at the hands of the Sequoia National Forest fire community. Sequoia National Forest management did not take appropriate action to address this problem.
Heidi worked tirelessly to document and provide information to Forest Service management and the NFFE union. No relief was provided to Heidi. For reporting sexual harassment and work place violence she was ostracized, investigated, taken off her crew, and forced to do work not in her job description.
Heidi has since been laid off and has traveled back home to Colorado and Wyoming. Her first and only season with the Forest Service in Region 5, California was the worst job experience of her life, with her only consolation being that she persevered and survived. Heidi does not plan to continue her former goal of a career in the Forest service. Her dreams have been dashed due to a Forest Service culture that condones a sexually hostile work environment and encourages retaliation for reporting it.
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