CARBONDALE — Amid several sexual misconduct allegations occurring throughout the country, the Carbondale City Council adopted an sexual harassment policy.
On Nov. 16, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Public Act 554, which mandated that each governmental unit pass an ordinance or resolution establishing a policy to prohibit sexual harassment.
Carbondale’s ordinance defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, or any conduct of a sexual nature when the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.
The policy also states that submission to or rejection of such conduct cannot be used as the basis for an employment decision, nor can such conduct have the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
The conduct in the policy includes — but is not limited to — verbal, nonverbal, visual, physical and electronic forms of harassment.
Councilman Jeff Doherty took a slight issue with part of the procedure for reporting an allegation of sexual harassment. The policy says “an employee who either observes sexual harassment or believes herself/himself to be the objects of sexual harassment should deal with the incident as directly and firmly as possible by clearly communicating her/his position to the offending employee.”
Doherty said the word “should” emphasizes is going to be taken as something the employee must do and could lead to unfavorable situations.
“I think that, as we have seen in many, many cases, that have come about recently nationally, that’s not always a good situation for somebody to do that or they feel powerless to do that,” he said. “People are going to feel like that is what they should do, rather than going to a third party.”
Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry had other thoughts on the matter.
“I think it is a good idea that the person being harassed state that very directly at the time it is going on,” he said. “I think that with what is going around now, this has to be very up front and direct. The person doing the harassing needs to know immediately to stop.”
Ultimately, the language stayed in the ordinance. The policy was unanimously approved at the most recent City Council meeting.