More News:

July 18, 2018

Philadelphia revamps sexual harassment prevention policies for city employees

A six-month audit process led to updated training methods and a new way to file harassment claims

Government Sexual Harassment
City Hall Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Sexual harassment prevention policies that do not protect Philadelphia city employees will be reformed and updated after a six-month audit by the city controller's office.

Sexual harassment prevention policies that do not protect Philadelphia city employees will be reformed and updated after a six-month audit by the city controller's office.

The audit ordered in January by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart revealed "inadequate and poorly implemented policies and procedures that do not protect Philadelphia City employees."

These are among the most notable findings included Rhynhart's executive summary of the audit:

59 percent of supervisors, managers and executive staff had not received sexual harassment prevention training in the last five years.

27 of the 38 personnel officers had not received sexual harassment prevention training in the last five years.

21 of the personnel officers had no record of ever having sexual harassment training.

The City Controller’s office was provided with 121 sexual misconduct case files from July 2012 to April 2018. Sixty-three of the cases were investigated and substantiated, and 53 were investigated and deemed unsubstantiated.

"This audit grew, in part, out of the #metoo movement, but mostly out of the revelations about sexual harassment and misconduct occurring throughout city government," Rhynhart said. "These incidents made me question whether the city was doing enough to protect its employees and itself from financial liability. The audit shows a broken system for reporting, investigating and resolving sexual misconduct complaints in the city."

In response, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Thursday morning an executive order to strengthen the city's sexual harassment prevention policies and training methods for city employees. In addition, the city will revamp the process for filing complaints, adding a new online portal.

NoneAdam Hermann/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signs the executive order on Thursday, July 19, that he says will strengthen the city's sexual harassment prevention policies and training methods for city employees. It also will revamp the process for employees to file complaints. Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart look on. The controller's office conducted an audit and found existing policies “do not protect Philadelphia City employees” from sexual harassment.

The new policies have been expanded to include information and guidelines on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Kenney said the executive order "will provide concrete steps towards ensuring a professional work environment free from sexual harassment and discrimination. Our hard-working City employees deserve nothing less."

Jane Slusser, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the administration has been working on reforms to the city’s sexual harassment policies since 2016 and forming a 12-member Citywide Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee.

“One of the key pillars for this administration is developing a diverse workforce and treating that workforce with respect,” Slusser said at a briefing Wednesday. “We’ve focused on different ways we’re providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for our employees.”

Rhynhart said Thursday the city’s system was so decentralized, there was no procedure in place for how to proceed if an allegation is made against an elected official, such as in the case of the accusations against Sheriff Jewell Williams last November. 

“Current policy states that a copy of the completed investigation must go to the department head and a Cabinet official,” Rhynhart said. “As a result, we found the completed, substantiated claim against [Williams] was delivered to the Sheriff himself in 2018.”

In November, Kenney called for Williams to step down amid the allegations. He stood by this decision on Thursday. 

The new process for filing complaints and resolving issues will be centralized using a new case management tracking system, which Monica Marchetti-Brock, the director of the Office of Labor Relations said Wednesday will ideally prevent complaints from being lost in a paper shuffle. The progress of each report can be tracked using the system, and complaints are expected to be investigated within a 90-day period.

The new online form for filing sexual harassment complaints, like the centralized system, is geared toward bringing the city’s policies into the modern age.

According to the city’s online submission page, once a complaint is submitted, it will be forwarded to the Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations’ Employee Relations Unit (ERU). It will determine if the complaint should be assigned to a particular office's department of human resources, or the ERU. Within three business days, the complainant is to be informed which entity will investigate the complaint.

As recently as three years ago, Slusser said, the city’s policy was to train management every five years. The new plan is to provide training every three years, starting in September with training for new managers. The city hopes to have all city employees trained by the end of 2019.

The new approach takes in consideration what types of training is needed by each employee. Executives and managers will receive instructor-led training; other employees with computer access will receive e-learning training. Field staff, or city employees such as sanitation workers, working without computer access, will receive training later in the cycle.

“We’re basically working with the employees who are easiest to reach, and then working our way to the middle,” Tracey Bryant, director of training and recruiting in the Chief Administrative Officer's office, said.

Prior to the audit and executive order, Slusser said, the policies had not been updated since 2011.

According to Bryant, HR managers will now receive information on how to conduct investigations; every employee will receive bystander training, covering what to do when you’ve actually observed sexual harassment; and every employee will be trained on LGBTQ sensitivity.

“There were things in there that obviously needed updating,” Slusser said. “It was written in a different time, where Facebook and social media were in a different place than they are today. There were a number of other things in there we just felt needed some fresh eyes.”

View the City Controller's audit on Philadelphia's sexual harassment policies and procedures here.


Follow Adam & PhillyVoice on Twitter @adamwhermann | @thePhillyVoice
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice
Add Adam's RSS feed to your feed reader
Have a news tip? Let us know.

Videos