Public Employers Turn Attention to Addressing Harassment Complaints

No doubt, recent developments and media articles have captured everyone’s attention. Highlights of recent developments in Georgia:

  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s recent executive order regarding the state’s sexual harassment training program sets up new training requirements for state employees and managers.
  • Governor Kemp made the state’s inspector general’s office the ultimate repository for complaints.
  • The state Senate also approved rules that require people who believe they’ve been harassed by a senator or a Senate staffer to bring their allegations within two years of the alleged incident. There had previously been no time limit.

Kemp’s order calls for:

  • Every state employee to be trained about the state’s sexual harassment policies within 30 days of their hire and require all employees – including part-time and seasonal employees – to take the training once a year. New managers are also required to take special courses.
  • The implementation of “uniform” standards for handling complaints that specifically prohibits retaliation against anyone who reported or participated in sexual harassment investigations.
  • Each executive branch agency must designate two people – a man and woman – to investigate complaints and report to the state’s inspector general’s office. Each also must make sure employees can report complaints to someone who isn’t their direct supervisor.
  • The state inspector general must come up with standardized training for employees who investigate the complaints and must review each complaint notification and decide whether it can be impartially handled internally within the agency. If not, the office has the power to appoint an impartial external investigator. It also has the authority to review a sexual harassment investigation at any time.

Given the direction Georgia State is moving in, public entity employers should turn their attention to steps they can take to mitigate risk. Options include:

  1. Review and update policies regarding sexual harassment prevention as well as procedures for reporting incidents of harassment.
  2. Consider a review of your employee handbook and training materials.
  3. Ensure that company policies and procedures clearly outline a process for responding to complaints as well as provide details on conducting ethical workplace investigations.
  4. Take proactive steps and schedule harassment prevention training.

ELS attorneys have experience in conducting the following types of investigations with public entity employers: sexual harassment complaints, toxic workplace, bullying, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and workplace misconduct.

Contact Chandra Davis at [email protected] or Raquel Crump at [email protected] for assistance with workplace policies, procedures, training, and investigation.