Larimer county public agencies sexual harassment complaints secretive database 3 tier architecture

Beyond those tolls, sexual harassment can be catastrophic to an organization’s bottom line. In 2015, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission alone recovered $164.5 million for private and public workers alleging harassment, according to the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, published in 2016.

Of those claims, one resulted in an ongoing retaliation lawsuit, two in terminations, and one harasser was required to undergo further sexual harassment training and apologize to the victim. Action taken on the other 16 substantiated claims was not disclosed.

While two employers claimed the Colorado Open Records Act prohibits their release of sexual harassment data, attorney Steven Zansberg of Ballad Spahr in Denver, who also represents the Coloradoan, said if a public entity tracks numbers of complaints or investigations in an existing record or database, there is no legal basis to withhold that record.

Additionally, while Colorado state statute prevents the public release of harassment investigations, it does not prevent the release of the number of complaints, investigations or actions received or performed by a public agency as long as individual identities are protected.

"When you don’t know anything about what is really happening in these cases, it’s the public that’s in the dark and it’s the public that they’re ultimately responsible to," said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

While men and women are both subject to sexual harassment, statistically, women are more often the victims. According to a third-party report on the Colorado General Assembly’s workplace culture regarding harassment, "overall, women have seen or experienced inappropriate conduct much more frequently than men have." What public employers reported

The cases resulted in a variety of discipline from termination to additional sexual harassment education and requiring the harasser pay for in-person and online sexual harassment training, acknowledge the behavior, demonstrate genuine remorse and offer a genuine apology, Hooker said.

The city of more than 1,200 employees refused to provide information on even the number of founded complaints, citing the Colorado Open Records Act, adding that the city does not maintain records that discuss or reference sexual harassment investigations. After a request to reconsider its decision, Chief Human Resources Officer Teresa Roche said the city would wait to read the Coloradoan’s story to see how other municipalities responded before completing an additional review of what data can be released.

TSD said it would charge the Coloradoan more than $1,500 in order for staff to perform a manual search of district records. TSD "does not have a readily accessible file that includes the information … nor a system that allows for staff members to quickly collate the data," said spokesman Michael Hausmann. Officials estimated it would take 56 hours to gather the number claims of sexual harassment data filed by district staff over the past five years.

The city of Loveland had two investigations that confirmed instances of sexual harassment: one in 2017 and one in 2013, according to a records custodian. Of those investigations, one came from the Loveland Police Department. The city, however, declined to release any records pertaining to the complaints and investigations.

Both entities refused to release any information pertaining to sexual harassment complaints and investigations, even after being informed that other agencies had released data. (The city of Loveland’s data includes the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority’s numbers until 2016, after which the two entities separated.)

With campuses in Westminster, Longmont and Fort Collins, FRCC reported 11 sexual harassment cases across its campuses that were substantiated and another five cases in which no wrongdoing was found. One harassment complaint has been substantiated thus far this year. For the past four years, anyone who receives a paycheck from FRCC is required to complete annual mandatory sexual harassment awareness training each fall.

In the past five years, Larimer County had one substantiated sexual harassment complaint, and the individual was immediately fired, according to County Attorney Jeannine Haag. She would not provide details on the year the incident occurred and whether the number of substantiated complaints included any that originated from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. The county also refused to release any other data or records.

Colorado State University has denied any wrongdoing. The three professors originally named in the lawsuit are still employed at the university. No action has been taken against them because CSU determined none was warranted, Hooker, the university spokesman, said.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports 75 percent of people who experience harassment never report it to a supervisor, manager or union representative, mostly because they’re afraid they won’t be believed, no one will take action or they will face social or professional retaliation, including losing their jobs.

Some local companies are also beginning to recognize that. Human resource consulting firm simplyHR LLC is collecting stories of employees’ experiences with harassment in the workplace. The company intends to create realistic scenarios for a sexual harassment training, "Define the Line," a comic book for employees on harassment in the workplace.

That presentation defines sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision."

It specifies that the law doesn’t prohibit "simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious." It also provides examples of what isn’t sexual harassment, such as "holding the door open" and "addressing violations of the dress code."

There is no state law requiring sexual harassment training among public or private employers, but most legal experts recommend employers have formal policies to protect themselves and their employees that are consistent with state and federal laws.

All public employers in Larimer County have policies against sexual harassment and say they require annual training, some online, some in person. Whether the training and policies translate into action when a complaint is substantiated remains unknown.

Bryant said state law permits Colorado employers to make their own anti-discrimination or anti-harassment policies. It’s only when employers get in trouble that the state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gets involved and provides corrective guidance.

The fall of actors, media personalities, congressmen and senators accused of sexual harassment has given rise to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that are encouraging dramatic change. They’ve forced public and private employers to re-evaluate their policies and practices, and given some hope to women throughout the country.

Though Bryant commends directing a spotlight on the issue of sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace, he said missing from the discussions is what people should do if they are sexually harassed or how to change the culture of secrecy surrounding the issue.

Bryant also recommends workers who believe they have been harassed submit a written complaint to their employer and speak up about the issue because sometimes an employee will discover someone else has also been harassed by the same individual, and "a pattern will emerge."

Arnow-Richman said she is heartened and a little fearful at the same time by the conversation. "I worry … the desire to rid workplaces of sexual harassment will lead to other forms of gender discrimination. Organizations may retrench keeping people in their roles, which is counterproductive to the ultimate goal."