Women's Panel Drafts Tougher Proposal on Sex Harassment in City Work Force

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women unveiled a draft proposal Monday of a more precise policy against sexual harassment in the city work force.

Expected to be put in final form and formally recommended to the mayor next month, the policy would specify that "sexual harassment coordinators" already at work in each municipal department must undertake a preliminary investigation of each harassment complaint and report it to the Personnel Department, where "appropriate disciplinary action" would be initiated when merited.

A five-point definition of sexual harassment would supersede more general language in Mayor Tom Bradley's executive order of Jan. 23, 1981, and a statement of employees' rights would seek to assure complainants of a fair investigation and hearing without future reprisals.

In a covering letter to commission President Nina Sorkin, Bradley said he supports a toughening of his policy. The new policy was drafted by a task force of city agencies, including representatives of the mayor's office, the city attorney and the Personnel Department. Representatives of the Personnel Department and city attorney's office told the commission that they would further refine the draft proposal before final adoption.

'Often Castigated'

K. Rebecca Hegwer, second vice president of United Paramedics of Los Angeles and a seven-year Fire Department employee, told the commission that "anti-female attitudes are still pervasive" in the department and that women who complain about them are often castigated as troublemakers.

"The reporting of sexual harassment incidents should not fall solely on the victim," Hegwer said. "Departmental supervisors should be responsible for identifying and reporting potential problems and should be held strictly accountable if they do not."

The draft of the proposed new anti-harassment policy points the way toward this by saying, "Any employee who witnesses an incident of sexual harassment has a responsibility to report it to the sexual harassment coordinator."

Prohibited instances of harassment in the draft proposal would include, but not be limited, to:

- "Suggestive or obscene letters, notes (and) invitations . . . derogatory comments, slurs, jokes and epithets . . . assault, touching, impeding or blocking movement . . . leering, gestures, display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters.

- "Continuing to express sexual interest after being informed that the interest is unwelcome."

- "Making reprisals, threats of reprisal or implied threats of reprisal following a negative response. For example, either implying or actually withholding support for an appointment, promotion or change of assignment; suggesting a poor performance report will be prepared or suggesting probation will be failed."

- "Engaging in implicit or explicit coercive sexual behavior which is used to control, influence or affect the career, salary, and/or work environment of another employee."

- "Offering favors or employment benefits, such as promotions, favorable performance evaluations, favorable assigned duties or shifts, recommendations, reclassifications, etc., in exchange for sexual favors."

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