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Newport Beach amends City Hall anti-harassment policy and starts forming homelessness task force

Newport Beach amends City Hall anti-harassment policy and starts forming homelessness task force
The Newport Beach City Council approved revisions to the city’s workplace discrimination and harassment prevention policy Tuesday night, including expanding sexual harassment prevention training and generally establishing a hard line against harassment and discrimination. (File Photo)

The workplace discrimination and harassment prevention policy in Newport Beach City Hall now clearly reflects recently expanded state protections of the #MeToo era.

The City Council unanimously and without discussion approved revisions to the policy Tuesday night. Changes include eliminating the “severe and pervasive” legal standard formerly used to determine whether behavior rises to the level of unlawfulness, expanding sexual harassment prevention training and generally establishing a hard line against harassment and discrimination.

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This keeps pace with laws passed last year in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements highlighting workplace sexual harassment and other misconduct.

Newport’s policy statement includes new language: “The city of Newport Beach has a strong commitment to prohibiting and preventing discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace. … The city has zero tolerance for any conduct that violates this policy. Conduct need not rise to the level of a violation of federal or state law to violate this policy.”

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Homelessness task force

In other action, the council formally established a homelessness task force and will soon accept applications for volunteers.

The task force will develop strategies to integrate homelessness services and build a list of community partners, review temporary housing solutions and develop metrics to monitor homelessness reduction. The group will periodically report to the council with updates.

The task force is scheduled to end at the close of 2020, but the City Council may extend its work.

The city is looking to fill seven seats. Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill and Councilman Brad Avery also will be members.

The council also unanimously agreed to changes for the city’s Aviation Committee.

The group is dropping its district-based alternate members and one City Council spot, switching the city manager and city attorney from voting to advisory members and adding one at-large member. It also will have a seat for a member of the recently formed neighborhood group Citizens Against Airport Noise and Pollution and will eliminate the seat held by AirFair, an arm of the local activist group Still Protecting Our Newport that is folding back into SPON.

Committee members will get term limits — up to 12 years in two six-year runs — and will meet at least once a quarter instead of as needed.

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