Philadelphia has recently completed a comprehensive audit of its policy on sexual harassment in the workplace. The audit was prompted by Philadelphia voters in May to change the city’s charter so that all city employees, either elected or appointed, are trained on preventing sexual harassment at least every three years. The audit found that most managers and executive staff did not complete mandatory training on how to prevent sexual harassment, most supervisors lacked training on how to process and follow up on complaints, and most employees do not know how to file a complaint.
Inconsistent Handling of Cases
There was no consistency among departments on how sexual harassment complaints were being addressed and documented. The audit found 121 complaints made over the past five years, consisting of verbal harassment, sexual misconduct, and coercion. Payouts for violations resulted in around $2.2 million in settlements. These cases are not expected to be an accurate reflection of workplace incidents of sexual harassment.
The audit also found that the law department fails to distinguish sexual harassment lawsuits from other lawsuits regarding gender discrimination. Combined with convoluted processes for filing complaints, the lack of adequate documentation of investigations and supervisor inadequacy toward responding to complaints contribute to a lack of clarity to the problem.
Auditors were told of many complaints that were filed but lacked documentation of an investigation and resolution of the complaint. Many departments either failed to properly document complaints or failed to forward complaints to the relevant authorities.
The audit also found that once an allegation was substantiated, disciplinary actions for similar violations varied significantly across departments. Some departments issued one to three-day suspensions for inappropriate conversations. One department only issued a written warning when an investigation revealed that one employee had physically groped another employee.
In five cases, punishments were more severe for lower-level employees than for supervisors. In one case, a substantiated complaint by a worker accused a sheriff of sexual harassment. According to city policy, the overseeing department receives copies of harassment investigations. Consistent with this policy, the sheriff was provided with a copy of the investigative findings and given an opportunity to offer conclusions and recommendations on his own case.
Mayor Jim Kenney accepted the audit findings. He recently issued an executive order updating the city’s sexual harassment policy. He hopes the policy will result in a city government that provides a working environment that supports and protects employees and enables them to feel safe coming forward with complaints. According to the Chief of Staff, beginning with executive staff and managers, the city has a plan to ensure all employees are trained by the end of 2019.
Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Represent Victims of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment is a violation of the law and if you are harassed at work, you are entitled to a fair investigation, corrective action, and to be free from retaliation for reporting the incident. If you have been sexually harassed at work, contact an experienced Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Call us at 215-569-1999 or submit an online contact form for a free consultation. We are in Philadelphia, and we serve clients from the surrounding areas, including Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and the state of New Jersey.