Delaware Looks to Boost Protections Against Sexual Harassment

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By Louis C. LaBrecque

Delaware’s governor is implementing a plan to boost protections for state employees against workplace sexual harassment.

The state will establish an easy-to-understand sexual harassment policy, create a centralized system for reporting and tracking complaints, and ensure that employees get training and are held accountable for inappropriate workplace behavior.

Those steps are part of recommendations developed by the state’s Department of Human Resources and issued March 13 by Gov. John Carney (D).

The issue of sexual harassment is getting renewed attention following a wave of allegations against prominent figures in Hollywood, on Capitol Hill, and in other workplaces. Carney in his Jan. 18 state-of-the-state address said revising Delaware’s sexual harassment policies would be a priority this year.

“The State of Delaware, like all employers, has an obligation to protect our employees from facing harassment and assault of any kind,” Carney said in written remarks issued with the new recommendations. “We will take appropriate action on all of the report’s recommendations.”

Attorney: In-Person Training Works Best

The state should be applauded for putting sexual harassment front and center, Debra Katz, an attorney with Katz, Marshall & Banks in Washington, told Bloomberg Law March 13.

Good policies offer flexibility for people alleging workplace harassment, Katz said. For instance, it may be impractical to call on employees to report harassment within a set amount of time. That’s because sexual harassment can build up over time as a harasser “tests the boundaries,” she said.

The state also should consider allowing employees to report sexual harassment to anyone in their chain of command and ensuring that in-person training on sexual harassment prevention is required, Katz said.

In-person training has been shown to be far more effective than online training in preventing sexual harassment in workplaces, she said. Managers at state agencies in particular should be trained on the policies through in-person events, Katz said.

The governor’s office didn’t respond March 13 to requests for comment from Bloomberg Law.

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