[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Pawling 6-14-1994. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Town of Pawling, New York, a municipal corporation, with offices located at 160 Charles Coleman Boulevard, Pawling, New York 12564, is committed to maintaining a collegial work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. Each individual has the right to work in a professional atmosphere which promotes equal opportunities and prohibits discriminatory practices, including sexual harassment, whether verbal, physical or arising out of the work environment and whether in the office, at work assignments outside the office, at town-sponsored social functions or at other work-related settings, which is unacceptable and will not be to tolerated. It is also illegal.
For the purposes of this policy, "sexual harassment" is defined as unwelcome or unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
Submission to or rejection of this conduct by an individual is used explicitly or implicitly as a factor in the decisions affecting hiring, evaluation, promotion or other aspects of employment; or
This conduct substantially interferes with an individual's employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, unwanted sexual advances; demands for sexual favors in exchange for favorable treatment at work or continued employment; repeated sexual jokes, flirtations, advances or propositions; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; graphic, verbal commentary about an individual's body, sexual prowess or sexual deficiencies; leering, whistling, touching, pinching, assault, coerced sexual acts or suggestive, insulting, obscene or demeaning comments or gestures; and the display in the work place of sexually suggestive objects or pictures.
This behavior is unacceptable both in the work place itself and in work-related settings, such as town business trips and town-related social events.
Consenting romantic and sexual relationships between supervisory personnel or an employee and his/her subordinate may lead to unforeseen complications. The respect and trust accorded a person by his/her subordinate, as well as the power exercised by that person in evaluating or otherwise supervising his/her subordinate, greatly diminish the subordinate's actual freedom of choice. Therefore, a supervisor and employee should be aware of the possible risks of even an apparently consensual sexual relationship. A supervisor or an employee who enters into a sexual relationship with another person in a work-related setting, where there exists a difference in power between the persons involved, should realize that, if a complaint of sexual harassment is subsequently made, it may be exceedingly difficult to prove immunity on the grounds of mutual consent.
This policy covers all employees. The town will not tolerate sexual harassment no matter who is involved. The town encourages reporting of all incidents of sexual harassment, regardless of who the offender might be, in accordance with the method set out in § 50-4 below.
In addition, the town will not tolerate sexual harassment engaged in by any person or persons hired by the town as independent contractors, or otherwise, to the extent that it affects an employee of the town. Any employee who has been subjected to sexual harassment by such a person may file a complaint with the Town Supervisor. The town will investigate any incident of alleged sexual harassment by a person who is not an employee of the town to the extent practicable and will take any action it deems appropriate after evaluating all the circumstances. In particular, the town will take any action necessary to stop the conduct and, if not stopped, the town will terminate its relationship with the person or persons.
The town encourages individuals who believe they are being harassed to clearly and promptly notify the offender that his/her behavior is unwelcome. If for any reason an individual does not wish to confront the offender directly or if such a confrontation does not successfully end the harassment, the individual should notify the Town Supervisor, who may, if the individual so requests, talk to the alleged harasser on the individual's behalf or arrange for mediation between the individual and the alleged harasser, with a third person acceptable to both. In addition, there may be instances in which an individual seeks only to discuss matters with the Town Supervisor, and such discussion should be encouraged. An individual reporting sexual harassment should be aware, however, that the town may decide it is necessary to take action to address the harassment beyond an informal discussion. The best course of action in any case will depend on many factors and, therefore, the informal procedure should be and remain flexible.
Moreover, the informal procedure is not a required first step for the reporting individual.
In the event that the reporting individual does not wish to pursue the informal procedure, or in the event that the informal procedure does not produce a result satisfactory to the reporting individual, the following steps should be followed to report the sexual harassment complaint and to initiate a formal procedure:
Notification of a member of the staff.
An individual who believes he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment should report the incident to the Town Supervisor.
An individual also has the option of reporting the harassment to his/her supervisor, if any. In such a case, the supervisor must file a written report of the complaint and its resolution with the Town Supervisor.
Time for reporting a complaint.
Prompt reporting of complaints is strongly encouraged, as it allows for rapid response and resolution of objectionable behavior or conditions for the complaining individual and any other affected employee.
The town has chosen not to impose a limited time frame for the reporting of sexual harassment complaints. However, the reporting individual should be aware that applicable statutes of limitations do constrain the time for instituting outside legal action.
Protection against retaliation. The town will not retaliate against an individual who makes a report of sexual harassment, nor permit any supervisor or employee of the town to do so. Retaliation is a very serious violation of this policy and should be reported immediately. Any person found to have retaliated against an individual for reporting sexual harassment will be subject to appropriate disciplinary procedures described below.
Confidentiality. Any allegation of sexual harassment brought to the attention of the Town Supervisor, or other appropriate person, will be thoroughly and promptly investigated. Confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigatory process to the extent practical and appropriate under the circumstances.
Investigation process. Any individual investigating the complaint shall try to take the wishes of the complainant into consideration, but should thoroughly investigate the matter as he/she sees fit, keeping the complainant informed as to the status of the investigation. The investigation process may include any or all of the following:
Confirm name and position of the complainant.
Identify the alleged harasser.
Thoroughly ascertain all facts in connection with the alleged incident, beginning by interviewing the complainant and the alleged harasser. Questions of all parties should be asked in a nonjudgmental manner.
Determine frequency/type of alleged harassment and, if possible, the dates and locations where alleged harassment occurred.
Find out if any witnesses observed the alleged harassment. If the complainant and the alleged harasser present conflicting versions of the facts, interview any witnesses.
Ask the complainant how he/she responded to the alleged harassment and determine what efforts, if any, at informal resolution of the matter were made.
Determine whether the complainant consulted anyone else about the alleged harassment and take note of who else knows and their response to the disclosure.
Develop a thorough understanding of the professional relationship, degree of control and amount of interaction between the alleged harasser and the complainant.
Determine whether the alleged harasser has carried out any threats or promises directed at the complainant.
Determine whether the complainant knows of or suspects that there are other individuals who have been harassed by the alleged harasser.
Determine whether the complainant informed any supervisor of the situation and what response, if any, the complainant received from these individuals.
When first interviewing the alleged harasser, remind him/her of the town's policy against retaliation for making a complaint of sexual harassment.
Upon completing its investigation of a sexual harassment complaint, the town will communicate its findings and intended actions to the complainant and alleged harasser.
If the town finds that harassment occurred, the harasser will be subject to appropriate disciplinary procedures, as listed below. The complainant will be informed of the disciplinary action taken.
If the town determines that no sexual harassment has occurred, this finding will be communicated to the complainant in an appropriately sensitive manner.
Sanctions. Individuals found to have engaged in misconduct constituting sexual harassment will be disciplined, and including the possibility of discharge. Appropriate sanctions will be determined by the town. In addressing incidents of sexual harassment, the town's response at a minimum will include reprimanding the offender and preparing a written record. Additional action may include referral to counseling, withholding of promotion, reassignment, temporary suspension without pay or discharge.
False accusations. If an investigation results in finding that the complainant falsely and maliciously accused another of sexual harassment, the complainant will be subjected to appropriate sanctions as described above, including the possibility of discharge.
The town shall maintain a complete written record of each complaint and how it was investigated and resolved. Written records shall be maintained in a confidential manner to the extent practical.
Written records will be maintained for five years from the date of the resolution unless new circumstances dictate that the file should be kept for a longer period of time.
The town has developed this policy to ensure that all of its employees can work in an environment free from sexual harassment.
The town welcomes suggestions, thoughts and new ideas for consideration.