Report: State falling short in preventing harassment

 

DOVER — About 10 percent of Delaware executive branch employees have failed to read and acknowledge a required anti-discrimination policy, according to a report released Tuesday by the governor’s office and the Department of Human Resources.

Also, only 9,000 employees have undergone voluntary sexual harassment prevention training since 2006.

The report, developed by Human Resources Secretary Saundra Johnson and others at the request of Gov. John Carney, analyzes the practices and policies used by the state to prevent, investigate and punish harassment.

The findings indicate the state is currently falling short in harassment prevention and include recommendations to close those gaps.

Gov. Carney issued an executive order one year ago instructing state agencies to merge their rules into one standard policy to be used statewide.

While all executive branch state employees, including casual/seasonal ones, “are required to read and acknowledge the policy on anti-discrimination, workplace harassment and retaliation, which includes, by reference, the policy on sexual harassment prevention,” about 1,500 out of 14,000 executive branch workers did not do so between June 12 and Jan. 7.

The number of employees who did complete the requirement is further broken down by agency. Just one member of the Delaware National Guard, which is allocated 115 positions in the current fiscal year, completed the training.

The governor’s office, which has 26 positions, had 19 employees acknowledge they read the state’s rules on harassment. Gov. Carney was one of those 19, according to his office.

Gov. Carney’s office said the intent was not to discipline the 1,500 people who did not acknowledge it and referred further questions to the Department of Human Resources. A spokeswoman for the agency did not respond to a question about what would happen to those who did not complete the training.

Some agencies list more people having completed the training than positions budgeted for, presumably the result of turnover.

The report also notes that of the 50-plus collective bargaining agreements the state has with its workers, 45 prohibit sexual harassment.

State officials plan to merge the broader policy on anti-discrimination and the policy on sexual harassment into one set of guidelines and procedures that “will outline a clear complaint process, necessary training, reporting, sexual harassment complaint tracking separately, and investigation requirements.”

A draft is due to Gov. Carney Thursday.

“As we all know, in recent months, allegations of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace have emerged across our country,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. “The state of Delaware, like all employers, has an obligation to protect our employees from facing harassment and assault of any kind. That’s why I asked Secretary Johnson to prepare this report, and to look at ways we can improve the state’s policies and procedures. We will take appropriate action on all of the report’s recommendations.”

The report recommends lawmakers require lobbyists, vendors and contractors “to submit or certify that they have anti-discrimination, retaliation, bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault prevention policies and training.”

It also calls for creating a centralized system for tracking and managing complaints and setting “clear and specific performance expectations for each employee.”

The Department of Human Resources was created last year on the recommendation of Gov. Carney to make it easier for the state to combat harassment.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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