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City Council bill would create sexual harassment task force for city employees

Legislation regarding sexual harassment and assault cases involving

Legislation regarding sexual harassment and assault cases involving city employees will be introduced to the City Council, Councilman Mark Levine said on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Photo Credit: Alison Fox

A City Council cohort is aiming to create more transparency when it comes to city employees reporting accusations of sexual harassment and assault.

Several new bills, announced by Councilman Mark Levine and others Thursday, would establish a task force to assess the handling of sexual harassment cases, and force city agencies to disclose the number, nature and severity of accusations.

The push comes as dozens of women have accused high-profile men across various industries of sexual assault, harassment, rape, and/or inappropriate touching.

“This moment has the potential to be a turning point, but it will only stick if policy makers seize this opportunity to not just punish individual abusers, but reform the system that enabled that abuse,” said Helen Rosenthal, council member and co-chair of the women’s caucus. “I feel the potential for this moment to be a reckoning not just for a few high-profile individuals, but for our culture as a whole.”

Levine also proposed a rules change for council staff that would require all accusations of sexual harassment or assault to be investigated by the Committee on Standards and Ethics, which only handles accusations made against elected officials. Currently, staff accusations are handled internally.

“It would be dangerously naive of us to think that we’re not facing a similar epidemic in the workforce of this city,” Levine said, standing outside City Hall. “We want to be proactive. And I think it’s important to say we’re not looking to cover our you-know-whats, we’re looking to simply amplify the voices of survivors and make sure that we have a full accounting and full transparency.”

If passed, the bill would not be retroactive and would not require city agencies to report past statistics on harassment and assault complaints.

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