City in Upstate New York Reviews Sexual Harassment Policies As Complaints Filed Against City Officials

Doug Kerr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)], via FlickrInternal sexual harassment policies are usually the first procedural hurdles that employees of both government and private employers must cross before they may pursue administrative or legal claims. The Binghamton City Council met in mid-April 2015 to review the city’s sexual harassment policy, which has reportedly gone without review or revisions for over 15 years. This occurred after a former employee’s spouse informed the council of a formal complaint alleging that a city official sexually harassed the former employee and several others. Another city employee, a police officer, filed a sexual harassment complaint with the state, and additional allegations against a former department head surfaced in late April.

The spouse of a former city employee reportedly sent a letter to the Binghamton City Council in late February 2015, in which he claimed that his wife and others had been subjected to sexual harassment by the former head of the city’s planning department. This prompted the council to announce that it would review the city’s sexual harassment policy for the first time since 1999. The council met to discuss this review, and while it has not set a specific timeline, it has reportedly stated that the review should take 30 to 45 days. Several other investigations are also underway, including a review of the city’s police department in response to a formal sexual harassment complaint filed with the state in March.

The former planning department employee has apparently questioned whether the city can adequately investigate itself. Media coverage of this issue does not provide many details about her case, but it appears that she filed a complaint with the city’s human resources department alleging sexual harassment by the head of the department in September 2014. She claims that the department “downplayed” her concerns and that she eventually faced an unlawful reprimand in retaliation for filing her complaint.

A Binghamton police officer filed a complaint in March with the New York State Division of Human Rights, which accused the police chief of sexual harassment and retaliation. This includes numerous alleged instances of unwanted sexual comments and advances towards the complainant and other female officers. She also claims that it is widely known in the department that anyone who rejects the chief’s advances will face “adverse consequences” and that she did face such retaliation.

The complainant alleges that formal misconduct charges brought against her in February 2014 were a pretext intended as retaliation, as were charges brought against her in connection with a car accident in February 2015. The police chief has been put on paid administrative leave in connection with the sexual harassment complaint.

The city council received a letter from another former planning department employee in late April 2015, alleging that the same former department head also sexually harassed him. He reportedly claimed in his letter that the city failed to investigate his claims adequately and stated that the city is not equipped to conduct investigations of this type. He also claimed that he did not come forward sooner because he feared for his job. It seems apparent that the city needs a serious review of not only its sexual harassment policy but also its procedures for investigating claims.

Workers in the New York City area who have experienced sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and other unlawful employment practices should consult with a knowledgeable and experienced employment discrimination attorney, who can advise them of their rights and advocate for their interests. Contact Phillips & Associates today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

More Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Filed in New York State Court Alleges Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Against Medical Practice, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 22, 2015

Sexual Harassment Complaint Against New York Limousine Company Results in Judgment for Plaintiff of Over $720,000, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 15, 2015

New York City Administrative Law Judge Recommends $37,000 for Former Employee in Sexual Harassment Claim, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 30, 2015

Photo credit: Doug Kerr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr.

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