Sexual Harassment Policy

I. Introduction

The County of Imperial recognizes that a productive working environment includes one that is free from sexual harassment, whether verbal, visual, or physical in nature. Every supervisor and department head is responsible for ensuring that their employees demonstrate a mutual respect for each other, and that conduct such as unlawful sexual innuendo, intimidation, and solicitation are absent.

II. Policy

This Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy is derived from the County’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, medical condition, sex (gender), marital status, sexual orientation, or Vietnam-era veteran status. It is the policy of the County of Imperial to ensure that its offices and activities are conducted in an environment free of sexual harassment.

This policy extends to all forms of communication, physical contact, and/or other gestures of a sexual nature that are unwanted and are explicitly or implicitly exploitative, intimidating, demeaning, and/or derogatory. Sexual harassment is an exercise of power expressed by forcing someone to grant or tolerate familiarity or intimacy they otherwise would not. Personality conflicts should not be misconstrued as sexual harassment and should be reported to the immediate supervisor for resolution.

No supervisor, co-worker, or other person shall cause a county employee to be in jeopardy of losing a job or promotion, be subject to adverse action or retaliation, or otherwise be placed in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, as the result of being subjected to rejecting, or reporting sexual harassment.

No person shall promise or grant favored treatment in hiring, promotion, discipline, or other employment decision, to an individual on the condition that such individual participate in or tolerate otherwise unwelcome sexual behavior. The County will take preventative, corrective and disciplinary action for any behavior that violates this policy. Disciplinary action up to and including termination will be imposed for unlawful behavior.

III. Policy Dissemination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Officer is responsible for ensuring that the policy and complaint procedures relating to sexual harassment are disseminated and implemented.

The Human Resources Director is responsible for ensuring that this information is included in the Employee Personnel Handbook and in orientation sessions with new employees (permanent, extra-help, and seasonal employees).

IV. Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of every supervisor and department head to take any sexual harassment complaint seriously and to respond immediately. The department head is responsible for verbally notifying the Equal Employment Opportunity Office immediately upon receipt of a sexual harassment allegation. The department shall submit an incident report form to the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer on all sexual harassment complaints reported to department supervisors or management personnel. The incident report form is to be submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer within five days of receipt of said complaint. Blank incident report forms are available in the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Officer shall follow up with the department head on the progress of the investigation and resolution within two weeks. All incident report forms shall be kept confidential and will remain in the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.

V. Applicability

This policy applies to all County employees, elected and appointed County officers and department heads, and to those who are agents of a public or private institution doing business with the County. This policy also extends to conduct towards members of the public.

This policy does not supersede County of Imperial grievance procedures

VI. Definitions

A. Sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior directed at the opposite sex that is deliberate or repeated, not asked for or returned and which affects the terms and conditions of employment. Sexual harassment can take any or all of the following three forms:

  1. Verbal Harassment: Epithets, derogatory jokes or comments, slurs or unwanted sexual talk. It also includes verbal abuse of a sexual nature such as graphic verbal commentaries about a person’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, propositioning, suggestive or sexually graphic letters, notes and invitations.
  2. Physical Harassment: Assault, battery, impeding or blocking normal movement or interfering with work, and unwanted touching such as, pinching, grabbing, patting.
  3. Visual Harassment: Derogatory posters, notices, cards, calendars, bulletins, cartoons, graffiti, photographs, signs, drawings, protracted staring or gestures.

B. The three forms of sexual harassment, described in A. above, can be exhibited as one of two types of sexual harassment: Quid Pro Quo Harassment or Environmental Harassment.

  • Quid Pro Quo Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for favors, and other verbal, physical or visual conduct of a sexual nature when:
  • Submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of a person's employment,
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such person.
  • Hostile Work Environment: Any of the forms of unwelcome behaviors of a sexual nature that are severe or pervasive enough that it either alters a condition of employment or creates a hostile or abusive work environment.

VII. Procedures

A complaint alleging sexual harassment shall be filed according to standard complaint procedures given in the Employee Personnel Handbook, or may be filed directly with the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer. The Human Resources Director shall refer requests for Employment Appeals Board hearings of sexual harassment complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, just as for one alleging any other form of discrimination.

If complaint is directly filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, he/she shall investigate, conciliate, resolve, and/or make appropriate recommendations to Human Resources and the Department in order to ensure that situation is remedied. A written report of the investigation will be prepared and coordinated with County Counsel. All cases shall be evaluated on an individual basis taking into consideration all the facts and circumstances pertaining thereto. Human Resources and Department Head shall be given a summary of findings, recommendations, and required actions. The complainant and alleged harasser will also be informed of the results.

If the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer cannot conciliate matter, then he/she shall recommend a hearing by the Employment Appeals Board (EAB). In that case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer shall brief the EAB on the findings of the original investigation and County Counsel shall brief on pertinent law and guidelines. If parties reach a conciliated agreement, the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer shall so inform the Human Resources Department in writing, and shall monitor all actions until completed.

VIII. Protections

If an individual accused of sexual harassment under this policy considers such claim to be malicious or fraudulent, said individual will have the opportunity to present evidence during the normal course of the complaint investigation. When introduced into the basic complaint, the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer shall make a determination on this issue specifically and concurrently. If the sexual harassment allegation is determined to be malicious or fraudulent, the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer shall make appropriate recommendations as to the disposition of the case.

The County will not tolerate retaliation against any individual who rejects sexual advance(s), complains of sexual harassment or files a good faith sexual harassment complaint. The County will not tolerate retaliation against any person who participated in an investigation covered under this policy. If retaliation is alleged, it shall be processed as a separate complaint that shall be filed directly with Equal Employment Opportunity. The law prohibits such acts of retaliation. Any employees found to be retaliating against another employee shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.