From the Department of Things We Can’t Believe We Actually Have To Say Out Loud But Apparently Need To, yesterday’s report from the New York Daily News brings a disturbing anecdote from the New York City Council’s recent sexual harassment training session:
Bronx Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. interrupted a mandatory City Council sensitivity session on Wednesday by loudly vowing never to report sexual harassment, lest he be a “rat,” several lawmakers in attendance told the Daily News . . . .
“I’m not gonna rat my people out! This place is full of rats!” Diaz screamed during the presentation.
Diaz was responding to a hypothetical scenario outlined by the attorney who was conducting the harassment training. The pols were asked what they should do if they overheard a chief of staff making sexually inappropriate comments in an elevator at the Council’s Broadway offices and saw a “visibly upset” female staffer reacting to the lewd remarks.
“He just started screaming and shouting out: ‘So we’re supposed to be rats? That’s a rat!’” one Council member recalled, pointing out the lawmakers are supposed to call the body’s Equal Employment Opportunity officer if such an incident occurs.
Councilman Diaz Sr.’s response is, in a word, bananas. It’s wrong in every sense of the word. And, employers and supervisors who follow his approach in how to respond to observing harassing conduct in the workplace may even subject the employer (and, in some circumstances, the individual) to serious legal liability for harassment.
As a reminder: employers have an obligation to provide a workplace that is free from harassment, and they have an obligation to promptly investigate and remedy incidents of workplace harassment. In other words, Councilman Diaz Sr.’s approach is 100% wrong, particularly considering the growing trend of state and local governments that are mandating stricter anti-harassment training programs and policies.
This news story provides a helpful reminder that it’s always the right time to review your anti-harassment policies and procedures and to train your employees in harassment prevention.