City of Bloomington Proposes Increased Protections Against Harassment For Contractors

(BLOOMINGTON) – The City of Bloomington, in order to strengthen protection against harassment for those who do business with the City, is proposing changes to the municipal code and to its personnel manual.

Ordinance 19-11, updating the section of the Bloomington Municipal Code (BMC) that addresses “Administration and Personnel” (Title 2), will be submitted to City Council Friday, May 31 for consideration and adoption during the legislative body’s June 5 and 12 meetings. Changes to the city’s personnel manual are expected to go into effect in early June.
These updates were prompted by allegations of sexual harassment made by a contracted employee of Monroe County Government that was publicized in the spring and highlighted some gaps in public protections against harassment. At Mayor John Hamilton’s direction, the Bloomington Human Rights Commission, with input and review from the City’s Legal Department, reviewed the municipal code to evaluate how well it protects contracted employees. The review identified two sections where the code should be strengthened. At the same time, the City’s Human Resources Department, together with the Legal Department, is updating Section 3.04 of the City personnel manual to extend the scope of those protected from harassment to independent contractors, among others.
“In the modern economy, increasing numbers of those who work, including with the City, are independent contractors,” said Hamilton. “We fully value these workers as they serve the city along with regular employees, and it is our responsibility to make sure they receive the same protections our City employees have long enjoyed. We learned recently that our public protections need updating.”
The proposed ordinance first amends the “Public policy and purpose” section of the BMC (2.21.020) to extend protection against harassment or discrimination to “independent contractors, volunteers, interns and any others doing sanctioned work for the City.” While City policy has long prohibited discrimination against or harassment of employees, this amendment explicitly provides that anyone doing work for the City in any capacity may bring a complaint of discrimination or harassment to City officials and that the complaint will be promptly investigated and acted upon, through established and appropriate channels.
A second proposed change amends BMC section 2.21.070, entitled “Powers and duties,” to require that any company contracting with the City submit to the Human Rights Commission its policy prohibiting harassment in the workplace. City Code currently requires contracting entities to share their policy regarding equal employment; the update would strengthen contractors’ commitment to affirmative action by requiring them to define harassment, designate employees to handle claims, and agree not to retaliate against complainants.
The City’s personnel manual is in the process of being amended to clarify that if a City employee harasses anyone doing work for the City, including independent contractors, that employee will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. The changes to the personnel policy are scheduled to go into effect in early June.