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Hamilton imposes tougher harassment measures

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark is calling Hamilton’s revised personal harassment prevention policy historic that will become the model for all provincial municipalities to emulate.

“I’m actually proud of this,” said Clark. “This is significant.”

The veteran councillor said for the first time if a person has been found to have violated the city’s harassment policy, the employee can be terminated without severance.

“(The city) can throw staff out the door without pay,” said Clark. “So bite your tongue and put your hands in your pockets. This is how seriousHamiltonis taking it.”

The stricter policy comes on the heels of an arbitrator’s decision last fall that awarded $25,000 to a Hamilton Street Railways employee after she complained about ongoing sexual harassment by a manager. The city, according to the arbitrator, did not properly investigate the complaint about sexual harassment she made, calling Hamilton’s actions unpardonable.

In November 2010 the employee launched a complaint alleging receiving pornographic emails, inappropriate touching and lewd comments going back several years.

The manager was terminated, but received a $200,000 severance agreement. He also received positive job employee recommendations from city managers that helped him get a new job inGuelph. He was subsequently dismissed by the municipality of Guelph.

Hamilton’s revised harassment policy, said City Manager Chris Murray, will show employees that “harassment and discrimination is not going to be tolerated.

“It’s another step forward” in changing the city’s corporate culture, he said.

The city has had a harassment prevention policy, and polices against workplace discrimination and for resolving harassment and discrimination since 2005.

Murraysaid a report on the harassment incident is expected to be completed later in the spring.

Mayor Bob Bratina said during the audit, finance and administrative committee Feb. 10 he knew of two incidents in which a city official harassed an elected official. He said in one incident the staff person apologized to the elected official, but in the other incident, the person did not. Councillors were left scratching their heads over the comment. The mayor, later, did not elaborate on his comments when asked.

Murraysaid he was unaware of the two incidents. When asked by media about the incidents, he said “I’m only as good as the facts presented.”

The harassment policy applies to all employees, elected officials, students and volunteers.

Helen Tomasik, executive director, human resources, said city employees will undergo training throughout the year while senior managers will provide a communications strategy to employees about the new policy.

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