Government of the District of Columbia
OFFICE OF THE CORPORATION COUNSEL
WASHINGTON, D. C. 20004
May 18, 1979
MEMORANDUM TO: Marion S. Barry, Jr. Mayor THROUGH: Elijah B. Rogers City Administrator FROM: The Mayor's Task Force on Sexual Harassment SUBJECT: Final Report
Charter from the City Administrator:
On April 28, 1979, the City Administrator requested, on your behalf, that I serve as the Chairperson of a Task Force consisting of Ms. Anita Shelton, Acting Director of the Office of Human Rights, Burtell Jefferson, Chief of Police; Jose Gutierrez, Acting Director of Personnel, and Ms. E. Veronica Pace, Chairperson of the Women's Coordinator Program. The City Administrator indicated that the Task Force should advise you on how complaints of sex harassment in the District Government should be handled, and provide you with recommendations as to the action that should be taken when persons are alleged or found to have sexually harassed another person. He also advised that you wished to receive a report from the Task Force as quickly as possible.
The Task Force met on May 1, 9, 15, 16, 17 and 18. All members of the Task Force joined in the various meetings, but Ms. Pace, due to death in her family, was unavailable as we concluded our work. The Task Force submitted a report on May 4, 1979, that outlined our preliminary thinking. Since then we have met in extended meetings to discuss individual and collective thoughts. In addition, the Task Force received written
materials, including a memorandum from the Executive Director on the Commission on Women attaching several items from the Commission's files, and a number of calls were made to individual members of the Task Force from persons having personal complaints of sexual harassment or alleging such activities in District agencies.
This report contains a statement of some of the considerations behind the Task Force's recommendations. We appreciate the opportunity to serve on the Task Force and think our recommendations provide you with the basis for actions that will address immediate as well as long-term needs. Recent events and subsequent complaints have focused public attention on sexual harassment in connection with employment in the District Government. We have not taken lightly our assignment of defining an appropriate and effective government response. At the same time, we have been mindful of your need for an early report.
The conclusions and recommendations of the Task Force were developed in light of a number of concerns.
First, the Task Force decided it would confine its recommendations to matters relating directly to employment in the District of Columbia Government. It was our conclusion that certain areas of activity between persons who happen to be employed by the District government are beyond the legitimate interest of the government when that government seeks to intervene to determine rights and take corrective action. These areas include relationships that do not involve matters of supervision, ratings or other types of authority affecting either the specific or general conditions of a person's employment.
Second, it is important for you as the Mayor to make a clear statement that sexual harassment will not be tolerated by your administration. At the same time, because charges of sexual harassment are fairly easy to make and often difficult to prove as well as to refute, it is equally important for you to indicate that such charges are extremely serious and the decision to file a complaint must be weighed carefully. The effects on the person complaining and on the person accused can be serious with respect to personal and professional relationships, as well as future advancement in their job. The statement should also unequivocally
state that an inference of sexual harassment or advancement by means of sexual favors is totally unwarranted from the fact of high position or promotion in government. You may also want to acknowledge in your statement that the feminist movement has created an awareness of women's rights and a need for government to work vigorously to establish standards whereby all employees will be evaluated on the basis of merit and their professional capabilities.
Third, the Task Force was aware of the need to identify a new focal point in the District government where complaints of sexual harassment could be received and addressed. This new focal point would have to be free of any association with past activities or attitudes that would make it suspect in the minds of those who view themselves as the victims of sexual harassment. The focal point must be perceived as one which intended to follow through on legitimate complaints and would provide a fair procedure protecting the rights of those who accuse as well as those who are accused. In this connection it, therefore, seemed preferable to use, to the extent possible, existing procedures for handling these complaints rather than develop a new interim process or a new permanent process that had not withstood the tests of time and fairness.
Fourth, the Task Force recognized the need to establish guidelines for any governmental action that would be taken in future cases in which complaints of sexual harassment are found to be proved involving persons in supervisory positions. In recommending governmental action, the Task Force is of the opinion that careful consideration should be given to the responsibilities of the persons involved at the time of the alleged harassment as well as at the time that a finding is made. The type of action should also consider the nature of the charges, i.e., whether they involve verbal harassment or physical abuse or job-connected actions.
Fifth, the Task Force thought it important that its recommendations address not only the need to provide an adequate remedy for complaining parties, but also provide an opportunity for the government to take appropriate personnel action against District Government personnel. The heads of all Executive Branch agencies should be required to establish internal procedures for handling complaints of sexual harassment. This will indicate that you expect these matters to be resolved within the agency whenever possible on a continuing basis and that the heads of agencies are
to be responsible for seeing that the procedures work and that there is a working environment free of sexual harassment. In addition, because of the need to have a continuing capability to conduct investigations into complaints of sexual harassment the Task Force recommends that the Office of the Inspector General be provided with an investigative capability to handle these complaints.
Sixth, the Task Force is aware of the need for the Mayor to have a mechanism available to him and to senior supervisory personnel to address management problems which do not fall within the regular personnel process. It may be desirable for you to establish an advisory committee or place this responsibility in the central Personnel Office, which will have an Office of Employee Counseling. The purpose of that office could be broadened to address supervisory management problems and provide an avenue for consultations and contributions from persons and organizations outside of the District government. The area of sexual harassment as well as other employee issues may take on dimensions that cannot be predicted at the present time and you should have a mechanism available to address these matters other than appointing ad hoc task forces.
First, that the Mayor issue a statement of his policy on what is appropriate and acceptable conduct by employees of the District of Columbia. This statement should address conduct by supervisory personnel as well as employees being supervised, and set a general tone calling for mature and responsible behavior that recognizes or acknowledges the dignity and integrity of each individual. As Mayor you should remind all employees that employment in the District Government is based on the concept of merit and discrimination will not be tolerated. To assure that allegations of sexual harassment receive the full attention they deserve, the statement should announce the formal procedure for handling a complaint of sexual harassment, call for vigorous enforcement of that procedure and provide a definition of sexual harassment. The statement should be accompanied by a Mayor's Order that would establish a formal policy as well as indicate the procedure to be followed; the statement and Mayor's Order should also address the matters discussed above as concerns of the Task Force.
Second, that sexual harassment be considered a form of "sex discrimination" within the definition of that term in the Human Rights Law of the District of Columbia, Further, that
sexual harassment occurs 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. This may include, but is not limited to (1) verbal harassment or abuse; (2) subtle pressure for sexual activity; (3) unnecessary touching, patting or pinching; (4) constant brushing against another employee bodily; (5) demanding sex favors accompanied by threats concerning an individual's employment status; and (6) demanding sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt promises of preferential treatment with regard to an individual's employment status.
Third, that a special unit be established in the Office of Human Rights to handle complaints of sexual harassment. The special unit, which would report to the Director of the Office of Human Rights, would be responsible for receiving complaints in accordance with the basic procedures set forth in Mayor's Order No. 75-230 (October 31, 1975). These procedures permit the informal resolution of complaints when possible but also provide a formal complaint procedure involving hearings with due process protections. By defining sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination, the procedures in Mayor's Order No. 75-230 provide a fair and established process to receive, investigate, and adjudicate complaints of sexual harassment. Employees should be encouraged to use this system when they think they have a valid complaint. Efforts should also be made to keep the allegations, investigations and findings as confidential as possible.
Fourth, that agency heads be held responsible for the development of an employment climate and a work site in which all employees can work free of sexual harassment. This will require good supervisory management techniques and close monitoring of office conduct. To assure that each agency has internal procedures for informal resolution of complaints of sexual harassment, agency heads should be directed to establish an objective complaint process to resolve complaints that are brought to their attention. In the event sexual harassment is found to have occurred, the regular adverse action procedure would be followed. Regardless of whether a complainant uses the agency complaint process, however, the special unit in the Office of Human Rights would be available at any time to all employees.
The head of each agency should be directed to take measures to assure that all agency employees are informed of the Mayor's Policy and Order and take preventative measures within the agency to assure a work environment that is free of sexual harassment including (a) amending the agency affirmative action plan to provide a focal point for the receipt and informal resolution of complaints, and (b) monitoring employee conduct to assure that sexual harassment is not condoned or encouraged. Guidelines for amendments to agency affirmative action plans should be developed by the Office of Human Rights so that agency plan amendments can be completed and a revised agency affirmative action plan submitted to the Office of Human Rights within 60 days.
The Task Force is available to brief you on this report at your convenience.
_______________________________ JUDITH W. ROGERS
Acting Corporation Counsel
_______________________________ ANITA SHELTON
Acting Director of the Office of
_______________________________ BURTELL JEFFERSON
Chief of Police
_______________________________ JOSE GUTIEREZ
Acting Director of Personnel
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