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Sexual harassment is a form of sex (gender-based) discrimination and is a violation of official City policy, and State and federal laws. Our General Manager is committed to creating a work environment free from discrimination and harassment. The Department of General Services has a "zero tolerance" policy regarding sexual harassment and prompt and appropriate action will be taken to deter this type of behavior.
If you observe or believe sexual harassment is occurring or has occurred in the workplace, you are strongly encouraged to bring the matter to the attention of your immediate supervisor, manager, or the Department's Sexual Harassment Counselor.
Under the Mayor's Executive Directive No. PE-1 (Revised), sexual harassment is defined by the City as, "…as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: (1) submission to such conduct is either explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of an individual's employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment."
In short, any employee who uses expressed or implied sexual (gender-based) behavior of a verbal, visual or physical nature that affects the work environment, job or performance of any individual has violated the City's sexual harassment policy.
Both males and females can commit acts of sexual harassment. Both males and females can be victims of sexual harassment. The conduct does not need to be sexual in nature to qualify as sexual harassment; the conduct can demonstrate a bias against men or women. Thus, the conduct needs only be motivated by a person's gender. Gender includes a person's gender identity or expression.
Verbal sexual harassment
Verbal harassment includes, but is not limited to, sexual comments or jokes, making sexual comments about a person's body, asking personal questions about a person's sex life, spreading rumors about a person's sex life or preferences, or repeatedly asking a person out who is not interested.
"Dirty" jokes, sexual innuendoes, comments or stories do not belong at work. You can never be sure that your "audience" finds your jokes or comments amusing. Anyone may be offended by your jokes or comments but not feel comfortable telling you directly. Additionally, anyone may overhear you telling your jokes or comments to another employee and become offended. This scenario is called "third party" sexual harassment.
Compliments in the workplace can be made but they must be made in good taste and in a non-sexual manner. It is NOT acceptable to say something like, "That sweater sure shows off your figure." It is acceptable to say, "That's a nice outfit you're wearing."
If there is any question in your mind as to whether or not your joke or comment might offend someone, the best course of action is to not say the joke or comment in the workplace at all.
Visual sexual harassment
Visual sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to, having or showing pictures, cartoons or posters of nude or semi-nude individuals, making sexual gestures with hands or body or making facial expressions such as licking lips or throwing kisses. This type of sexual harassment also includes leering (staring at someone in a lustful manner), following a person, blocking a person's path, or sending unwanted letters, gifts, or materials of a sexual nature. As mentioned above, if there is any question in your mind about whether or not the content of material might be offensive to someone, do not display or share it in the workplace at all.
Physical sexual harassment
Physical sexual harassment is any form of unwelcome touching or brushing up against a person. Examples of physical harassment include touching the person's body, hair or clothing, hugging, kissing, patting or stroking, massaging a person's neck, shoulders, etc., or standing close to a person.
Reporting sexual harassment
If you feel comfortable talking to the "harasser," tell the harasser that you do not like the behavior. If the harassment does not stop, report the conduct to your supervisor or to the Department Sexual Harassment Counselor at (213) 922-8583. If you are not comfortable talking to the harasser, contact your supervisor, manager or Department Sexual Harassment Counselor. Keep careful notes about the incident(s). You are not required to tell the harasser to stop the conduct in order to have a valid claim of sexual harassment.
Time limits for reporting sexual harassment
The statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment complaint within the City is one year from the date of the first incident. While the Department would like the opportunity to address internal complaints of sexual harassment, individuals have many complaint filing avenues outside the Department. Individuals may contact the City Personnel Department's Office of Discrimination Complaint Resolution (ODCR), California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), a state agency, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency. Please keep in mind that there are filing deadlines for each of these entities. Your Department's Sexual Harassment Counselor will provide their respective contact information at your request.
Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment
Any employee and applicant may file a sexual harassment complaint without the fear of retaliation by the City, Department management, their immediate supervisor, or any other employee. A complaint of retaliation will be viewed as a complaint separate and apart from the original sexual harassment complaint, regardless of the Department's finding in the original complaint. Employees found to have committed acts of retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action.
Managers and supervisors have a considerable responsibility as it relates to sexual harassment. If you observe or hear about sexual harassment, you are legally responsible to take action to stop the harassment and to prevent further occurrences. Such actions include taking necessary protective action, documenting, investigating, and reporting the sexual harassment to the Department's Sexual Harassment Counselor. You are held to a higher standard than non-supervisory employees, and must set a good example and behave in a professional, respectful way towards your subordinates, co-workers, supervisors, other City employees as well as toward the public.
It is incumbent on managers and supervisors to create a work environment where employees feel comfortable coming to you to discuss any issue, including sexual harassment. As a manager or supervisor, you must also stay in tune with your staff's work environment, particularly assessing potential acts and acting on actual incidents of retaliation after a sexual harassment complaint has been filed. The earlier the awareness, the earlier action can be taken to protect your employees.
As a manager or supervisor, you can be held personally liable for the acts of your subordinates if you knew or should have known sexual harassment was occurring at the work site, and took no action to stop or prevent it from happening.
Supervisor-subordinate personal relationships
The Department does not prohibit dating in the workplace. However, if you are a manager or supervisor, it is strongly recommended that you do not ask individual subordinates out. Because you are a manager or a supervisor, employees may feel obligated to accept your request to go out on a date. Some employees may accept your invitation believing they will receive special treatment at work, or other employees may perceive that you are favoring the employee you are dating, especially if they observe overt acts of affection in the workplace. You should avoid the appearance of any conflict between your professional responsibilities and your personal relationship with employees. Such relationships may compromise the integrity of your management decisions. For this reason, it is the Department's practice to ensure that employees in a personal relationship do not work in the same chain of command.
A manager or supervisor dating a subordinate employee
Although not recommended, a single request to go out with a subordinate employee does not constitute sexual harassment. However, severe or repeated unwelcome (pervasive) behavior that interferes with a person's work performance and/or creates a "hostile" work environment will rise to the level of constituting sexual harassment. Therefore, if you continue to ask the employee out, after the employee expressed a lack of interest the first time, you increase the possibility that your actions will create a hostile work environment for the employee and subsequently constitute sexual harassment.
Rumors with no specifics
As a manager or supervisor with little information about possible sexual harassment, you must take action. You might consider routing a memo to your employees reminding them about the Department's "zero tolerance" policy on sexual harassment, or discussing the Department's policy on this issue during a tailgate or staff meeting. Document that you had the meeting and what was said on the subject and send the notes to the Department's Sexual Harassment Counselor. When in doubt, contact the Department's Sexual Harassment Counselor for guidance.
An employee reports sexual harassment but does not want an investigation
While strongly encouraged, employees are not required to report incidents of sexual harassment. As a supervisor, you may encounter an employee who is reluctant to disclose information regarding sexual harassment other than to report that sexual harassment has occurred. In such cases, explain that the Department has a "zero tolerance" policy regarding sexual harassment and takes every complaint seriously, but cannot conduct an investigation to address the issue without the employee's cooperation. Remind the employee of the Department's retaliation policy. If the employee still insists that nothing should be done about the matter, document your conversation, noting what you told the employee, and turn the matter over to the Department's Sexual Harassment Counselor.
For more questions about sexual harassment, you may call the Department's Sexual Harassment Counselor, Paula Dayes, at (213) 922-8583, Personnel Services Division, Room 301, City Hall South, or e-mail her at Paula.Dayes@lacity.org (or through GroupWise: 'Paula Dayes').
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