City provides update on new sexual harassment policies

Monica Marchetti-Brock (center) and William Twardzik of the Office of Labor Relations discuss changes to sexual harassment policy.

The city of Philadelphia officially rolled out new policies around how it handles sexual harassment complaints six months ago, and on Tuesday city officials provided an update on how progress made since the new policies were implemented.

Director of Office of Labor Relations Monica Marchetti-Brock is forthright in the importance of improved sexual harassment policies for city employees. “The Kenney administration set the goal of creating a workplace that’s diverse, inclusive and free of harassment, intimidation and discrimination,” Marchetti-Brock said.

In July 2018, with the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse gaining national momentum and after news of inappropriate behavior from city employees. City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart released an audit local government’s sexual harassment policies and protocols.

Rhynhart’s audit found that on sexual harassment, “The city’s policy is inadequate, decentralized and implemented poorly across city departments.” Her report called the process for reporting harassment “opaque and complicated.” Rhynhart reviewed 121 complaints filed from July 2012 to April 2018, including 102 complaints of verbal harassment, 44 complaints of sexual misconduct and seven complaints of coercion among city employees. Of the 121 cases, 63 were investigated and substantiated; 53 were deemed unsubstantiated. Rhynhart’s audit helped serve as a catalyst for changing how city offices handle sexual harassment cases.

Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order in July 19, 2018 to improve anti-sexual harassment policies. In his executive order Kenney required sexual harassment prevention training for all employees and supervisors and cooperation in investigations from all employees.

Several key updates have been made to the sexual harassment prevention policy with recommendations from Rhynhart’s audit in mind. Prohibited conduct now includes guidelines relating to gender identity, sexual orientation and the use of technology, and the policy includes gender fluid safeguards that show support for employees of LGBTQ backgrounds.

City employees that want to report a sexual harassment incident are now able to file complaints online using their smartphone or computer in a more secure and private manner.

According to Marchetti-Brock, there have been 40 sexual harassment complaints since July 19, 2018, with 50 percent of the complaints related to conduct prior to July 19, 2018. By fall 2019, sexual harassment training is expected to be held for all city employees.