County Council holds forum on workplace sexual harassment

MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — For months the “Me Too” movement was among the biggest stories in the nation.

Reporters, politicians, movie producers and stars were all accused of sexual harassment – something all industries learned that they were not immune from – including the Montgomery County government. On Tuesday, representatives from the County’s departments gathered to talk about workplace harassment more than a month after custodial staff accused Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel of making sexist and racist comments toward them.

“So I think kind of given the climate of the, you know, the nation and what’s going on right now, I do think we need to take a closer look,” said Shawn Stokes, director of the Office of Human Resources for Montgomery County.

Other County department heads and human resources managers joined Stokes on the panel in order to summarize their department’s policies on harassment and mandatory workplace training required for all department employees. While the particulars of each County department differ, all County employees are required to go through some sort of workplace harassment training.

Permanent County employees are required to go through anti-harassment training at least every three years by completing some sort of online course or attending a seminar. Council member Craig Rice (D-3), was critical of the anti-harassment training courses which he said are often not taken seriously by employees.

“A person can still sit through training and still believe what they believe, do what they do, regardless of what we train them to do,” Rice said.

Rice also noted some County employees have been able to avoid punishment by making their inappropriate comments while not on the clock. Several Council members mentioned comments that fell into a gray area of County policy where a County employee said or did something offensive, but escaped punishment for it.

Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large) mentioned a case of a County employee having a Confederate flag on their vehicle, something that other County workers complained to human resources about.

Rice brought up an example of a County police officer chastising low-income residents during planning board public hearing and County human resources officer Angela Washington sighted an example of a County employee who made disparaging comments about disabled people in the comment section of a Yahoo News article while on the clock. However, Washington added that the employee in that particular case was eventually fired for the offense.



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