Here are some of the top stories we’re following for today. 3/13/18
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Hundreds of state employees have not completed mandatory sexual harassment training or even acknowledged receiving a copy of the state’s newest policy barring such behavior, according to a report released Tuesday.
Training intended to prevent sexual harassment among state workers became mandatory last year under an executive order issued by Gov. John Carney, but has been made available on a voluntary basis since 2006, according to the Delaware Department of Human Resources.
Yet several thousand of the state’s 14,000 full- and part-time workers in executive branch agencies have not completed sexual harassment prevention training over the past 12 years, while about 1,500 have yet to sign a paper saying they have received the 2017 policy, the department found.
Only about three-quarters of the employees in the Governor’s Office have acknowledged receiving the new policy, while only 1 of the 115 state-funded Delaware National Guard positions has turned in the document, according to the report.
The 16-page report authored by DHR Secretary Saundra Ross Johnson notes that the state’s executive agencies have been allowed to augment general policy regarding human resources matters “resulting in inconsistently applied and enforced policies, practices and procedures.”
“The quality of the current training varies from passive training, involving reading a document, to more active training using more-effective live instructor-led sessions,” the report found. “One of the most pervasive concerns facing employees that experience harassment is a fear of retaliation. To prevent retaliation, the State must better train employees in recognizing an preventing it.”
The report recommends centralizing those human resources functions to ensure all state workers, including new hires, receive consistent and routine sexual harassment training.
Johnson’s report also proposes seven other changes, each aimed at strengthening the state’s anti-sexual harassment and discrimination rules. The document includes a timeline for full implementation by the end of 2018.
The recommendations include plans to consolidate two existing policies into one; better communicating the policy to state workers; and passing legislation to require that lobbyists, vendors and contractors certify that they too have received anti-sexual harassment and discrimination training.
Carney on Tuesday said he supports “taking appropriate action” on all of the report’s proposals
“In recent months, allegations of sexual harassment and assault int he workplace have emerged across the country,” he said in a release. “The State of Delaware, like all employers, has an obligation to protect our employees from facing harassment and assault of any kind.”
The need to improve the delivery of human resources services is exactly why Gov. John Carney and the Delaware General Assembly created DHR in mid-2017. Carney called on Johnson to examine the state’s current anti-sexual harassment and discrimination policies and training in December.
His call for a review of state policies came amid a wave of sexual misconduct claims against prominent figures in entertainment, media and politics that sparked the #metoo movement.
Delaware legislators also have been updating their policies regarding sexual harassment.
Delaware and Indiana previously were the only two states in the nation with a legislature that had no written sexual harassment policy for lawmakers in either chamber, according to a recent Associated Press survey.
That changed in January when the House unanimously approved a new policy that spells out and expressly forbid sexual harassment, established a formal process for handling complaints and requires annual training for state representatives.
Senate Majority Leader David McBride, D-Hawks Nest, told reporters in January that his chamber would do the same. Those policies are still be drafted, a legislative aide said Tuesday.
Contact reporter Scott Goss at (302) 324-2281, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ScottGossDel.
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