Leadership Corner

Forest Service issues new agency-wide Policy for Alcohol Use in shared government housing

July 26th, 2019 at 11:34AM
Portrait of Chief Vicki Christiansen in uniform.
Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen

Editor's notes: Read the official alcohol policy here. 

As leaders of the Forest Service, we share a commitment to provide employees a safe and secure environment. We continue to take actions toward creating a work environment where all employees are safe, treated with dignity and respect, and free from harassment. Safety is one of our core values, and, as such, is at the forefront of everything we do. Safety is not just about our physical safety; it also includes psychological and social safety. Toward that end, and effective immediately, the Forest Service is implementing a ban on alcohol in shared government-furnished quarters. The Forest Service’s Alcohol Policy prohibits the possession or consumption of alcohol in shared quarters. Any employee who possesses or consumes alcohol in such quarters will be found in violation of this policy.

This National Alcohol Policy aligns with our core values and with our efforts to create the environment we all want and deserve. Although alcohol does not excuse any offensive behavior, national statistics show that alcohol is often a contributing factor in cases of assault, sexual assault, harassment and other inappropriate behaviors. Alcohol use has been a contributing factor in previous instances of misconduct in the agency. And, while most Forest Service tenants in shared quarters units are responsible, respectful, courteous and law-abiding, alcohol use in shared quarters units presents potential risks for all. Therefore, for the safety of Forest Service employees, the agency has banned the possession and consumption of alcohol in shared quarters units.

This policy applies directly to employees who live in shared tenant housing. This refers to shared quarters units owned or leased by the Forest Service and rented to employees. These shared quarters are often an efficient and affordable housing option that are shared by unrelated employees who are each issued separate housing assignment agreements.

We can all agree that alcohol use can impair judgment. With that in mind, continuing to permit alcohol consumption in shared quarters potentially puts employees at risk. And as an agency, we will not continue to accept risk.

Regional Foresters or Station Directors are responsible for managing the quarters program and implementing this policy in their areas. Line officers or supervisors will personally discuss expectations, responsibilities and consequences concerning possession and consumption of alcohol in shared quarters with all employees.

Every employee has the right to a work environment that is safe, healthy, productive, resilient and free from harassment of any kind. This policy strengthens our commitment to our core values and brings to life “This is Who We Are.”  

I realize you will have questions, so I included the answers below for your information. Please reach out to your local leaders for further guidance.

Q1: Why does the Forest Service need a National Alcohol Policy?
A1: National statistics show that alcohol is often a contributing factor in cases of assault, sexual assault, harassment, and other inappropriate behaviors.  For the safety of Forest Service employees, the agency has banned the possession and consumption of alcohol in shared Quarters units.
While most Forest Service tenants in shared Quarters units are responsible, respectful, courteous, and law-abiding, alcohol use in shared Quarters units presents potential risks.  It is a known fact that alcohol impairs judgment and has been a contributing factor in previous instances of misconduct at the agency.  Continuing to permit alcohol consumption in shared Quarters potentially puts employees at risk.  The agency will not continue to accept the risk.

Q2: What is considered shared tenant housing?
A2: Shared Quarters units owned or leased by the Forest Service and rented to the employee.  These shared Quarters are often an efficient and affordable housing option and are shared by unrelated employees who are each issued a separate Housing Assignment Agreement.

Q3: Where will this authority be located?
A3: Forest Service Manual 6400 “Property Management” and Chapter 6440 – “Real Property Management” authorizes the Deputy Chief of Business Operations to establish service-wide direction for shared government-furnished quarters.

Q4: What are the expectations of the line officer regarding this policy?
A4: Regional Foresters or Station Directors are responsible for managing the Quarters program and they issue necessary instructions to implement prescribed policies in their areas.  The line officer/supervisor will personally discuss expectations, responsibilities, and consequences concerning possession and consumption of alcohol in shared Quarters; and is responsible for oversight of employee’s adherence to the policy.

Q5: What is considered to be a violation of this policy?
A5: Possession or consumption of alcohol in shared quarters will be considered a violation of the Forest Service’s Alcohol Policy.

Q6: What are the consequences for violating the policy?
A6: Violation of this policy may result in termination of the Housing Assignment Agreement.

Q7: Are there exceptions?
A7: There are two exceptions to this policy.

  1. Excluded from this policy are shared Quarters units occupied and rented under a sole-tenant agreement.  This includes housing units occupied by the employee and their immediate family members; the unit is not shared with other Forest Service, government, non-government, or cooperator tenants.
  2. An employee who qualifies as a “required tenant” (section 6445.05) should adhere to their respective collective bargaining agreement requirement.

Q8: What are the options if an employee accepts seasonal employment but feels they cannot comply with the alcohol policy?
A8: Employees will be encouraged to seek other housing options if they do not believe they can comply with the Forest Service’s alcohol policy.

Q9: When does this policy take effect?
A9: The alcohol ban in shared government quarters is effective immediately.