Moreno to propose sexual harassment policy ordinance to City Council

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A push to permanently stop sexual harassment in the workplace will begin to work its way through city government. The New Orleans City Council will have its first reading Thursday to adopt a possible ordinance.

Over the past couple of years, counselor Shirley Young says she's had more people come to her for help after workplace sexual harassment incidents.

"They came here really devastated, unable to work," Young said. "I think all three left their jobs in one way or another."

Young, with the Metropolitan Center for Woman and Children, says people spend more time at work, and unwanted advances there can be intimidating.

"If it's your boss, who do you complain to if the company doesn't have a policy about what you do or what is sexual harassment. It's been entrenched in our society," she said.

New Orleans Councilwoman-at-Large Helena Moreno says it's an issue she worked on during her time as a state representative and hopes to implement change at the city level.

"It was certainly an issue at the Capitol, and it was time to set in place certain policies and set that message - this is not the right type of behavior," Moreno said.

The City of New Orleans' only sexual harassment policy was adopted a little over three months ago in February. Moreno says that's unacceptable in this climate, and that all city employees - elected and otherwise - should be protected and educated.

"Its always been important to me to provide comfortable working environments for all employees," Moreno said.

The proposed ordinance would make sexual harassment training mandatory. Elected officials would have additional training. It would also lay out specifics for reporting incidents, and have third-party groups investigate those incidents.

"Maybe it's too late for some of us women in the workplace now because situations have already happened, but it's not going to be too late for those young girls coming up behind us," Moreno said.

Young says for city government to take such a step in protecting against sexual harassment in the workplace, she hopes it will make a difference

"Will raise the understanding of what sexual harassment is and what to do about it, what the rules are about how to deal with it," Young said. "I think that's really important."

If the City Council passes the measure, the city would also start compiling an annual report of complaints, investigations, and a list of which employees have and have not completed the training.

Moreno plans to introduce the ordinance for a first reading Thursday.