Plan Establishes The Right In Ohio To A Sexual Harassment Free Workplace

Democratic candidate for Ohio governor Betty Sutton last week released Ohio’s first comprehensive plan to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault in state government. Her plan establishes the right to a sexual harassment free workplace.

The plan builds on Sutton’s call to create a Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity as well as a bi-partisan letter organized by State Senator Charleta Tavares and efforts by the Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus and Senator Tavares to address the pervasive misconduct in the state legislature, a press release said.

Sutton will create an independent arm of the department to spearhead efforts to fight sexual harassment and assault by creating policies to prevent quid pro quo harassment and a hostile environment, review all job applicants for a history of sexual harassment, and ensure that companies that do business with the state establish effective sexual harassment and assault policies, the release said.

Sutton also is calling on the state legislature to do more than training, and implement a zero tolerance harassment policy with reporting structures and consequences for state lawmakers, staff and registered lobbyists, it added.

“As the first woman in Ohio to serve as a legislator at the city, county, state and federal level, I have experienced the culture that accepts sexual harassment as the norm and silences victims who feel there is no recourse,” Sutton said. “Ohioans have a right to a sexual harassment and assault free workplaces, and it starts with establishing clear and concrete expectations for our state employees and those who do business with the state, holds predators accountable, and incentivizes others to implement policies to adequately protect workers. It is good for business, for workers, and for justice.”

While we have a distance to go to achieve full gender equality in Ohio and the country, Sutton said, we can take a meaningful step and end the days of silencing the victims of sexual harassment and assault in state government.

“We have a president who graphically talked of sexually assaulting women, we have legislators who think they can sexually prey on women with impunity, and candidates for statewide office and U.S. Senate who thumb their noses at this problem by failing to speak out,” she said. “As governor, I will make it clear that Ohio will not do business with sexual predators and will not tolerate it.”

Sutton’s sexual harassment and sexual assault plan is below:

Ohio workers have a right to work in a sexual harassment and sexual assault free workplace

1. Create a Sexual Harassment and Assault Office. The office, an arm of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, will be created to set clear guidelines of what a sexual harassment and assault free workplace is for workers, supervisors and contractors. This includes policies to prevent quid pro quo sexual harassment.

2. Establish clear, confidential and safe reporting of sexual harassment and/or assault by victims or observers of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. The Office will operate a 1-800 hotline and web portal to allow the safe and confidential reporting of worker harassment. Strict reporting guidelines will be enacted to report sexual harassment and assault to the department.

3. The Office will develop policies to prevent and avoid sexual harassment in Ohio government work places and for the investigation of complaints, including by contractors with the state. The state will mandate routine sexual harassment and assault training for all state employees and contractors.

4. The Office will be tasked with reviewing applicants for state employment for previous sexual harassment and assault issues and disallow employment for repeat offenders.

5. State contractors will be required to publicly post, and make accessible to the public and its employees on their website, their company’s anti-harassment policies that include how they deal with reporting and consequences.

6. The Office will grant certification to companies and state contractors for their anti-harassment policies, and will grant certified companies preference in government procurement.

7. The Office will audit all state agencies’ practices and reporting structures and require that a consistent training, reporting and disciplinary process is in place.

8. Sutton will work with state legislators and support state legislative efforts to implement a zero tolerance sexual harassment policy with reporting structures and consequences for state lawmakers, staff and registered lobbyists.

9. The Office will grant certification for businesses of their policies after an audit, at their request, and publicly list those companies as certified on its website to establish trust with Ohio citizens and communicate that certification to the Better Business Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce throughout Ohio.