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LA's About To Handle Harassment And Discrimination In A Whole New Way

Los Angeles City Hall. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)
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The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt significant reforms to Los Angeles' harassment and discrimination policies.

In a motion introduced in February by Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Nury Martinez, the proposed reforms include:

  • Simplifying existing policies and ensuring that they are "written in clear, concise, and plain language"
  • Establishing a central intake unit to receive complaints
  • Establishing clear guidelines on how to report and to whom
  • Updating the city's technology to facilitate easier reporting

Krekorian at Wednesday's meeting expressed concern about the low number of complaints the city receives from its own workers.
"There must be people...who have concerns or complaints," he said, "but they are afraid to [report], they don't know how to do so, they don't know who to talk to... we have not made it as easy as we need to."

A city survey conducted last year in the wake of the #MeToo movement found 18% of city employees said they'd been sexual harassed on the job, far higher than the complaints logged by the city personnel department.

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Martinez said that the motion passed Wednesday was focused on guaranteeing transparency for all parties involved.

"No one of our employees should ever wonder, if they make a claim of sexual harassment or discrimination, where that claim is at" in the process, she said.

Wednesday's vote comes on the heels of a long and ugly history involving L.A. City and County employees and ongoing claims of sexual harassment and discrimination. A KPCC investigation last year found the city has paid out $8 million in sexual harassment claims and judgments since July 1, 2011.

The city made a $75,000 payment in 2014 to resolve a case that involved accusations of sexual harassment by a former aide to Councilmember Mitch Englander. The aide, Melody Jaramillo, said nothing was done when she complained that Englander's chief of staff had repeatedly harassed her. Jaramillo also accused Englander of making sexually inappropriate comments.

Englander, who left the council last year, has said the claims were false. In an email asking for a correction to the original characterization in this story, Englander said the payout ultimately was tied to a wrongful termination claim, not the harassment allegations.

Also in 2014, accusations of sexual misconduct made against Councilman Jose Huizar were settled with an undisclosed payout that did not involve city money. In the wake of those settlements, widespread problems with the City's ability to field complaints emerged, including shortcomings involving training, follow-through and tracking.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly left the impression that former Councilmember Mitch Englander made a payout to settle accusations of sexual harassment. LAist regrets the error.

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