To all river companies in Moab:

I have been hearing reports from women of sexual harassment being committed by men at a certain river company in town. This is disturbing, unacceptable – and, beyond our opinions on the matter – it is unlawful. The men responsible for this harassment are in positions of relative power, and are abusing that power by committing alarming, unwanted and illegal acts on these women. One woman in her mid-20s described an incident on an overnight trip where her manager made physical advances on her while she was trying to sleep. Another reported a male employee in his 60s uttering such vulgar comments as wanting to spank his young, female co-worker. The women are reluctant or afraid to come forward, for fear of being blacklisted in a small town, ostracized at work or fired. Thus, I am writing this letter on their behalf.

If you own or manage a river company, I urge you to review and redesign your zero-tolerance sexual harassment policies and training. Your anti-harassment policies must, in accordance with the law, be thorough, clear and strong-armed, include the definition of sexual harassment, highlight examples of conduct that constitutes prohibited harassment, and explain the measures that will be taken if sexual harassment is committed. Furthermore, your employees must be well educated on your company’s zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy. (Lynne Hermle, “15 Key Steps For Companies Responding To Sexual Harassment Or Discrimination Allegations,” Forbes Magazine, Nov. 13, 2017.)

These standards are no longer optional and they should not be taken lightly; appropriately addressing sexual harassment in the workplace is now a cultural norm backed by the force of law. And the rafting industry is certainly no exception.

I also urge everyone to listen to the episode of “This American Life” which aired on Nov. 16, 2017 (“#603: Once More, With Feeling,” at Act one of this episode reveals a common and deeply consequential misunderstanding between the men who perpetrate harassment and the women who experience it. Through statistics as well as interviews with people on both sides of the misunderstanding – with the men who enjoy catcalling, and with the women who receive these misguided “compliments” – it is brought to light that although men might think women are in on their joke and that their catcalling is playful, well-meaning and fun, that instead women almost unanimously feel scared, uncomfortable and violated by such conduct. The current national news is evidence enough that women are standing up and pushing back, to expose and stop these acts of abuse.

I believe employers in Moab want to protect the women that work for them from degrading and violating behavior at their companies. But in order to do so, sexual harassment policies must be reformed. I therefore ask that river company owners and managers address these issues immediately, during the winter months, so that they might be ready to roll out adequate policy and procedure on sexual harassment for the 2018 tourist season.