Document 28A: News Release, 24 May 1979, District of Columbia, Office of the Mayor, concerning Mayor's Task Force on Sexual Harassment. 3 pp.


   Washington D.C. was one of the first cities to address the problem of sexual harassment. This 1979 Order issued by the mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Berry, prohibited sexual harassment in city government. This document includes a press release from the Mayor's office announcing the order, a final report from the Major's Task Force on Sexual Harassment, and the order itself. The order defined sexual harassment to include "verbal harassment or abuse, subtle pressures for sexual activity, unnecessary patting or pinching, constant brushing against another employee's body," but applied only to harassment of government employees by their supervisors. The order established procedures for filing, investigating, and adjudicating sexual harassment complaints in the District of Columbia government. This order resulted from the efforts of a diverse group of activists in the D.C. area and became a model policy for other cities around the country.


May 24, 1979

CONTACT: Florence Tate

   Mayor Marion S. Barry, Jr., today made a pioneering move in issuing a far reaching administrative order based on the recommendation of the Mayor's Task Force on Sexual Harassment.

   Chaired by Corporation Counsel Judith O. Rogers, the task force was created April 29, 1979 and charged by the Mayor with expeditiously advising him on the most effective and judicious ways of handling the sex harassment complaints in the District Government.

   The report, based upon a series of meetings and deliberations and materials, including a memorandum from the Executive Director of the Commission on Women as well as a number of calls from persons having personal complaints or alleging such activities within District agencies, was co-authored by Ms. Rogers; Police Chief Burtell Jefferson; Acting Director of Personnel Jose' Gutierrez; Acting Director of the Office of Human Rights Anita Shelton; and Veronica Pace, Chairperson, Women's Coordinator Program.

   After carefully assessing the scope of its charge and responsibility, the task force based its deliberations on the following premises:

  • Recommendations should be confined to matters relating directly to District of Columbia Government employment.

p. 2

  • The Mayor needed to make a clear and unequivocal policy statement declaring that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in his administration.

  • A new focal point should be established for the processing of sexual harassment complaints thus overcoming possible employee reticence based upon previous bureaucratic procedures and processes.

  • Guidelines for governmental action needed to be established for handling future complaints involving persons in supervisory positions.

  • Executive branch agencies should have internal procedures enabling them to handle these complaints.

  • The Mayor needed a mechanism for addressing management problems not within the regular personnel process.

   Based on the preceding premises, after thoroughly studying all conceivable aspects of the issue the Task Force on Sexual Harassment made four recommendations to the Mayor.


1.   The Mayor's policy statement should address conduct by supervisors as well as the employees, and should set a general tone calling for mature and responsible behavior which recognizes the dignity and integrity of each individual.

2.   Sexual harassment should be considered a form of sex discrimination as defined within the Human Rights Law of the District of Columbia; and that sexual harassment can be said to occur when an "individual in authority exercises or attempts to exercise that authority and power to control, influence or affect the career, salary or job of another employee or prospective employee in exchange for sexual favors.

3.   A special unit be established in the Office of Human Rights to handle complaints of sexual harassment.

p. 3

4.  Agency heads should be responsible for the development of an employee climate and work site in which all employees can work free of sexual harassment.

   In accepting and carrying out the task force's recommendations Mayor Barry today issued the attached administrative order number 79-89 the first such order believed to have been issued by any major American city government.

   (Attachments: Mayor's Order Number 79-89; The Final Report, The Mayor's Task Force on Sexual Harassment.)


back to top