(TNS) — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a website Monday on which city employees, commissioners and those who do business with the city can file discrimination and sexual harassment reports, one of several initiatives meant to make it easier to address mistreatment in the workplace.
"Every person who works in a city office, in a service yard or a park deserves to feel safe at work," Garcetti said, adding: "When a victim makes the difficult and courageous decision to come forward, the city needs to respond quickly and efficiently."
Garcetti also signed an executive directive that orders city staffers to come up with recommendations for streamlining the complaint review process, expanding training on harassment and discrimination and crafting an independent board to examine "certain complex or sensitive cases."
The mayor told reporters that setting up the independent board would help reassure people who might be reluctant to complain about someone in their "chain of command."
The online portal, MyVoiceLA, is already online in a "beta" form, and city officials said they will incorporate suggested improvements before relaunching the website in late August. MyVoiceLA is meant specifically for city employees, commissioners, elected officials, volunteers and contractors to report harassment allegations.
Garcetti said the city had decided to focus first on workplace complaints, but that he would look into whether L.A. should expand the system to allow the public to report alleged harassment by city officials, employees and others tied to municipal government.
The mayor unveiled the website and executive directive at an event at the Getty House, which also featured a panel of survivor advocates speaking about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
The initiatives are being launched as the city grapples with the unsettling issues thrust to the forefront by the #MeToo movement.
In December, Garcetti mandated that the leaders of city departments ensure that any alleged incidents of sexual harassment are reported to the personnel department within 48 hours of learning about them.
The Times previously had reported that Los Angeles lacked a centralized way to track sexual harassment complaints filed against its workers and managers had not been required to report such claims to the personnel department. Under the guidelines implemented in December, the number of harassment claims reported to the personnel department has surged, the city said.
A recent survey of city employees found that nearly 18% of respondents said they had been sexually harassed in the workplace — and more than half of employees who said they had been subjected to harassment did not report the incident to anyone. In addition, less than a third of employees who said they had endured harassment gave a positive rating to the process the city has been using to handle such complaints, the survey found.
That employee survey had been sought by council members Paul Krekorian and Nury Martinez, who called in November for the city to look into creating a telephone hot line and a website to lodge sexual harassment complaints against city workers. Martinez, who attended the Getty House event, praised Garcetti and his efforts but said the work is not finished. For instance, the city has yet to establish a hot line, the councilwoman said.
The new steps are being announced days after an unidentified woman sued an unnamed politician in Los Angeles County, alleging that he had sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. Her attorney, Lisa Bloom, declined to clarify Friday whether the elected official served at the local, state or federal level. Garcetti told reporters Monday that the only thing he knew about the lawsuit was what he had read in the media.
"But I hope that any complaint is taken seriously," Garcetti said.
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