May 10, 2005 Senators and legislative staff members on St. Thomas are being updated on the Legislature's new sexual harassment policy this week in a series of seminars.
The policy, adopted in February of this year, is the first time that a sexual harassment policy was adopted for the V.I. Legislature.
"This policy was strictly for the Legislature," Senate President Lorraine L. Berry said Tuesday. "It provides guidance to the senators and both the central staff and senators' staff."
Berry said Dr. Ida White, who is currently working as an Equal Rights Officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was presenting the workshops. White has trained more than 1,000 FEMA officers on the subject of Awareness and Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the workplace.
Each day this week, White will speak to different senators, their staffs and different offices within the Legislature on St. Thomas. Berry said the seminars also will be held on St. Croix soon.
The seminars are mandatory for all senators and staff, and must be held as required by the sexual harassment policy, Berry said.
"We want to make sure everyone knows what the policy says," Berry said. "It is a tool to empower individuals if they feel they have been sexually harassed."
According to the handbook being used in the seminars, the participants will learn:
– The range of behaviors that can be considered sexual harassment.
– How to confront harassers early.
– The serious penalties for not immediately stopping unwanted behaviors.
– How to respond to quid pro quo harassment and a hostile work environment.
– Proper procedures for reporting and investigating complaints.
The Legislature's sexual harassment policy resulted from a case of sexual harassment filed against Sen. Usie Richards in the previous legislature. The Senate Ethical Conduct Committee, which Berry chaired, was given the charge of formulating rules and procedures addressing sexual harassment for incoming Legislatures to follow. (See "Berry: Ethics Committee Has Acted") The Senate reprimanded Richards for his alleged actions, but he has since sued the ethics committee and former Senate President David Jones in Territorial Court. That case is pending.
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