For fifth time in six months, aldermen strengthen sexual harassment ordinance

SHARE For fifth time in six months, aldermen strengthen sexual harassment ordinance
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Ald. Margaret Laurino, (39th), says the City Council is trying to be pro-active on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. | Sun-Times file photo

Is there no end to the number of times Chicago aldermen will move to inoculate themselves from a sexual harassment scandal?

Apparently not. At least not yet.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Committee on Human Relations added sexual harassment to the statement of city policy that is included in the city’s Human Rights ordinance.

“Although sexual harassment has been prohibited under the ordinance since 1990, acknowledging it in this manner affirms the City Council’s position . . . that sexual harassment is a major threat to the rights of city residents [just] as prejudice, intolerance, bigotry and discrimination, and will not be tolerated in the city of Chicago,” Mona Noriega, chairman of the city’s Commission on Human Relations, told aldermen.

“In making this amendment, the city of of Chicago will continue to show its leadership on significant civil rights issues and will demonstrate its commitment to ending all forms of bias and discrimination.”

Noriega noted that sexual harassment in the workplace is “not always easy to spot.” Nor is it often reported — at least not to the Commission on Human Relations charged with fielding and investigating complaints.

Last year, the commission received only 45 complaints alleging sexual discrimination. Only half alleged “some form of sexual harassment,” Noriega said.

To reverse “under-reporting” and encourage more victims to come forward, the commission is now using print and social media to “take advantage of the increased attention to the issue of sexual harassment” touched off by the #MeToo campaign, Noriega said.

“Sexual harassment diminishes its victims and lessens us as a society . . . It continues to be a problem that effects all people, but women significantly more,” Noriega said.

It was the fifth time in six months that City Hall had moved to insulate aldermen in advance.

Aldermen have made sexual harassment training mandatory for all city employees, including aldermen and citywide elected officials.

They have added themselves and other elected officials, including the mayor, to rules barring sexual harassment of other city officials or employees and broadened the protective umbrella to cover lobbyists, constituents, businesses and developers.

Most recently, they have moved to require all companies seeking city business “on or after June 30” to have a comprehensive sexual harassment policy in place and provide “legal recourse” for sexual harassment victims.

The latest change was sponsored by Ald. Marge Laurino (39th), the City Council’s president pro tem, as were many of the earlier changes.

Laurino stressed that she knows of no other shoe that’s about to drop. At least not beyond Ald. Marty Quinn’s role in the #MeToo scandal swirling around the once-impenetrable political organization run by his mentor, Il. House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Quinn played a pivotal go-between role between his own brother and political consultant Alaina Hampton, who has accused Kevin Quinn of stalking her with a series of harassing text messages.

“I’m not anticipating any major scandals here . . . By being pro-active, we send out a good message,” Laurino told her colleagues.

“We want to be clear and explicit that sexual harassment will not be tolerated here in the city of Chicago.”

Is there no end to the changes that Laurino is prepared to propose?

“I’m sure there’s gonna be an end to it someday. But my intent is to be pro-active on this,” she said.

“We want to make sure that everybody in the city of Chicago and city of Chicago employees understand that this is unacceptable. I don’t think that you can tell them often enough.”

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