Board Updates Town's Policy On Harassment

By Connor Beach

The Town of Huntington has adopted a new discrimination and harassment policy that replaced an Equal Employment Opportunity Policy and a sexual harassment policy that has been on the books since 1999.

The town board adopted the new Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment and Complaint Procedure at the May 17 town board meeting because it “streamlined and combined policy against discrimination and harassment and a complaint procedure,” according to town documents.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, who sponsored the resolution, said the new policy covers “discrimination and any form of harassment.” Councilwoman Joan Cergol seconded the resolution.

“Previously, harassment was covered in a blanket statement, merely stating it wasn’t tolerated, and it only covered unwanted sexual advances, favors or physical contact,” Lupinacci said. “The new policy spells out specifically prohibited actions and behaviors, including those creating a hostile work environment.”

Some of the specially prohibited actions in the new policy include whistling in a lewd manner, sexually oriented comments or jokes, offensive emails or text messages and repeated requests for dates, among other things.

The new policy also eliminates the EEO Complaint Review Committee that was made up of 16 people chosen by members of the Town Board to investigate harassment complaints. Instead the Town EEO Officer and Personnel Director are responsible for investigating complaints.

Lupinacci said the town board felt that the complaint review committee was inefficient and “a violation of the employee’s privacy” that may have been “intimidating and resulting in employees refraining from filing a complaint as it did not protect their privacy.”

The town board unanimously adopted the new policy.