By Jennifer McMahon, Director of Human Resources
Lately, you can scarcely pick up a paper, turn on the TV, or go on Facebook without seeing a news story about another incident of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. It has manifested across gender and sexual orientation lines, and shown up in sports, entertainment, politics, and more. So you may be thinking, is that something to worry about at the City? The emphatic answer is no, and here’s why.
Like most good employers, the City long ago put in place a solid harassment policy articulating what harassment is, that it would not be tolerated, how to report it, how an investigation is executed, and the consequences of harassment. We regularly require employees to sign off on the policy indicating their understanding of our expectations. We routinely train all our employees, from crossing guards to the city administrator, on our policy. The most recent onsite training was completed late last year, and all new hires must complete a video training.
While we promptly act on complaints and strictly administer our anti-harassment policy, the key driver that makes the City a harassment-free employer is culture. No tolerance for sexual harassment aligns with a Guiding Principle of the City: Respect. It is a value that has been repeatedly articulated clearly and formally. More importantly, this value is modeled by formal and informal leaders throughout the organization. Innuendos, jokes, inappropriate behavior – even seemingly insignificant – are not tolerated. This type of culture immediately communicates to anyone that inappropriate behavior is not welcome within the employment confines of the City of St. Charles.
For harassment and inappropriate behavior to blossom, it needs a culture to support it or, at the very least, to look the other way. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, “workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment.” In particular, they noted two things that contribute to the right culture: A commitment to such a culture from the top leadership and accountability systems that ensure those who engage in harassment are held responsible. St. Charles has both. From the Mayor and City Administrator through all supervisory levels, a culture of respect is modeled, fostered, and demanded.
Any report of harassment is investigated immediately by Human Resources, the Department Director, and the direct supervisor. All substantiated complaints are addressed promptly. This reporting, investigating, and accountability structure reinforces the City’s culture of respect.
With the State of Illinois’ passage of Public Act 100-0554, we will be reviewing our City policy to verify conformance with the new State law. City officials’ commitment to ensuring a harassment-free employment environment has always been evident, and this policy review will further reinforce that commitment.
I am proud of the St. Charles leadership for fostering a culture that is free of sexual harassment and this organization’s commitment to preventing harassment in any form. We can all take pride in modeling the City’s efforts to create an environment in which everyone is treated equally with the respect, courtesy, and professionalism they deserve.