City

Voters to Settle Policy on Sexual Harassment Training for City Employees

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has sponsored a primary ballot measure to make sexual harassment training mandatory for all city workers.


blondell reynolds brown

Blondell Reynolds Brown | Photo by Jeff Fusco

A survey conducted last fall by the Association for Talent Development found that 71 percent of the nearly 1,000 human resources professionals polled by the global nonprofit confirmed that their companies offer comprehensive sexual harassment prevention training. In Pennsylvania, every single employee of the commonwealth is expected to receive training on this sensitive subject. But Philly, it turns out, is lagging behind the state and private sector in this regard.

Under the city’s current Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy, municipal departments are obligated to ensure only that individuals in supervisory positions receive the necessary training. Lower-level employees simply receive a copy of the policy.

Inspired by society’s recent cultural shift in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has sponsored a measure to amend the Home Rule Charter and make sexual harassment training mandatory for all city workers regardless of classification — appointed, civil service, and exempt. It will appear as Question 3 on the May 15th primary ballot, with Philadelphia voters deciding its fate.

“I have dedicated my career long before coming to City Council to advocating for women,” Brown tells Philly Mag. “I have to admit that it remains an uphill battle. This movement has energized my colleagues and I to continue finding new ways to fight for equality as we unpack the systemic issues of our country revolving around race, gender, and class and begin to look at the ways in which we have been socialized.”

According to Brown, the training is intended to educate employees on civility and appropriate behavior when engaging with coworkers, making certain to stress not only not how to act, but how to conduct oneself in the workplace. The training is not just a refresher course on these standards – it also focuses on the procedures to report sexual harassment and the tools available to address grievances within the office.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is a widespread, intergenerational and complex epidemic,” Brown says. “Enforcing mandatory training is a concrete step in the right direction towards working against it. While we cannot cure the societal issues surrounding sexual harassment with this training alone, we will work to spread awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment and how coworkers and employees can identify and address it when experiencing it or as a bystander.”

While pushing the “yes” button should be a no-brainer at the polls, Brown reminds those who may be hesitant to think of how rape culture and sexual harassment affects mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends on a daily basis. Studies indicate that more people report incidents of sexual harassment when it is clearly defined and there are proportional consequences in place for the perpetrator.