Gov. Brian Kemp announced he was implementing the state’s new sexual harassment prevention policy with key department heads at the Capitol Wednesday.
The policy is outlined in an executive order Kemp signed on Jan. 14, his first day in office. The order and Kemp’s announcement called on executive counsel David Dove to work with Inspector General Deb Wallace and Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Alex Atwood to enforce the new policy. Together, Kemp said they will develop uniform standards for handling complaints and investigations, as well as mandatory training for employees, managers, supervisors and investigators.
“The State of Georgia does not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace, and the State of Georgia is committed to providing a harassment free workplace and environment for its employees and all citizens who interact with the state government,” Kemp said in the executive order.
The order called for “every state employee” to be “trained regarding the avoidance and prevention of sexual harassment.” The use of “uniform sexual harassment reporting and investigation practices will assist in the objective to eliminate sexual harassment in the state.” The uniform prevention policy is to apply to all executive branch agencies, Kemp said. The policy is also to prohibit retaliation against those who report harassment. Each agency is to designate “at least two persons, not of the same gender, to investigate complaints of sexual harassment.”
The office of inspector general has been given authority over such investigations, and all agencies have been ordered to cooperate and comply with the state policy “in addition to all federal and state laws governing sexual harassment.”
Kemp’s action gives the state its first uniform structure for addressing sexual harassment, but it only affects the executive branch.
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton, who also took his position in January, has appointed a group of judges to form an “Ad Hoc Committee to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Judicial Branch of Government.”
Melton charged the group with “gathering research, examining and evaluating best practices, and encouraging all classes of Georgia courts and court councils to establish policies to prevent sexual harassment.”
The legislative branch is the last to follow suit, although discussions are underway there on a new policy as well.