City council holds hearing on sexual harassment training legislation

Philadelphia City Council's Committee on Law and Government held a public hearing Tuesday regarding a proposed bill that would mandate sexual harassment training for all City of Philadelphia employees.

In December 2017, Philadelphia Councilwomen Blondell Reynolds Brown, Jannie L. Blackwell, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, Cherelle L. Parker, Cindy Bass and Helen Gym introduced the bill.

Under the city's current sexual harassment policy, such training falls under the responsibility of "each Appointing Authority."

Under the new bill, mandatory annual training on sexual harassment in the workplace will be required for all exempt, non-exempt, civil service, City officers and employees. For certain employees and departments that non-annual training would be more appropriate, sexual harassment training would need to be offered at least once every three years.

"A work environment where employees feel safe is a productive and efficient workplace," said City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. "I believe that seeking a charter change requiring sexual harassment training is an important step toward better protecting City works."

"We are at a significant moment in time, fueled by the #MeToo phenomenon," said Jovida Hill, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission for Women. "It is encouraging that this body and this proposed amendment to our Home Rule Charter is at the forefront of a cultural shift that recognizes that all workplace--public and private - should provide an environment where all people, no matter their race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity can thrive and perform to their fullest potential."

Amber Hikes, Executive Director of the Mayor's Office of LGBTQ Affairs says training of this kind is especially significant to the LGBTQ community, which experiences sexual harassment at rates that far exceed their colleagues.

"Mandated sexual harassment training will provide city employees the education necessary to abate and eradicate this kind of behavior dehumanizing, direct examination of an already marginalized group," said Hikes. "LGBTQ employees deserve workplace environments where they can be a part of conversations with coworkers without their bodies and relationships becoming the topic of discussion."

"We together can work towards a world where all people #BelieveWomen," added Councilwoman Reynolds Brown. "Where perpetrators of harassment are prosecuted, and, most importantly, where fewer women have to live in fear of being harassed when they walk into work every day."