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South Bend Common Council passes 'sexual harassment training' bill

“The key issue is to be proactive,” said South Bend Common Council Vice President Oliver Davis.

Common Council members voted to pass a new ordinance Monday requiring sexual harassment training for all City of South Bend employees.

“It’s something that we need to keep up-to-date with, with everything going on in our community and through our nation; that we must stay ahead of that game as leaders of the community,” said Davis.

Staying ahead of the movement also seen popping up across the internet in national sexual harassment scandals like the Weinstein case happening in workplaces and the #MeToo Hashtag.

Councilmember at Large Karen White is particularly passionate about the subject.

“We’re living in a time in which we have to be very sensitive and very supportive of our employees,” said White.

And Common Council Vice President Oliver Davis brought it to the table.

“I initiated it here in the city. The idea came from what our state legislators have done down in Indianapolis,” said Davis.

This past session, Hoosier state officials passed a similar bill to implement sexual harassment requirements even for sitting lawmakers. Davis wanted something like that done right here at home.

“We will be the first city that will do something in that same fashion here in the state of Indiana so this helps us to be a model to show that we are in the lead and being very proactive regarding this too,” said Davis.

Human Resources will coordinate with each department on how to go about the up-to-date training which includes all full and part time employees, South Bend elected and appointed officials, and seasonal or temporary personnel.

“Gender, your sexual orientation, individuals have the right to work in a free environment that is free from any type of sexual harassment and this is a great step towards that,” said White.

Davis tells me the move has already sparked some interest in other Michiana communities.

The full list of topics that training will cover are as follows:

The sexual harassment awareness and prevention training shall, at a minimum, include the following topics:

  • Definition of sexual harassment and examples of types of conduct that meet the definition;
  • The manner in which an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including making a confidential report to a supervisor or someone with Human Resources authority within the City and how to file a complaint with the South Bend Human Rights Commission;
  • The legal prohibition against retaliation against anyone who reports a sexual harassment allegation;
  • Information regarding the consequences of sexual harassment as well as the consequences for knowingly making a false report of sexual harassment;
  • Remedies available for sexual harassment victims in civil actions and potential employer or individual liabilities;
  • Strategies to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace;
  • An explanation about the limited confidentiality of the complaint process;
  • Resources for victims of harassment;
  • The employer's obligation to conduct an effective workplace investigation of a harassment complaint and to take remedial measures to correct harassing behavior;
  • A supervisor’s obligation to report any complaints of sexual harassment, of which they are aware, to the appropriate person in an effort to resolve the claim internally;
  • Information on how to prevent abusive conduct;
  • What the supervisor should do if he or she is personally accused of harassment;
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