Harassment & Discrimination

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
DIRECTIVE TYPE: POLICY SUBJECT: Harassment & Discrimination NUMBER: PERS-520.00
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 2/21/2016
NMLEA STANDARDS: PER.02.01 – PER.02.03 LAST MODIFIED: 1/12/2016 LAST REVIEW: 5/30/2017


PURPOSE:


The purpose of this policy is to support San Juan County’s policy that all employees should be able to enjoy a work environment free of unlawful harassment or discrimination. This policy provides employees and supervisors with the general procedures for making and/or addressing complaints of this nature.


POLICY:


It is the policy of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office to promote a cooperative work environment in which there exists a mutual respect for all members of the agency. Harassment and discrimination are unwelcome behaviors that erode morale and rapport amongst employees and impair work effectiveness. Furthermore, these acts are illegal under federal and state laws. Conduct that amounts to actual harassment or discrimination will not be tolerated, regardless of the working relationship between the participants. Such conduct will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. (PER.02.01)


DEFINITIONS:


The following definitions shall apply for the purposes of this policy:


  • Discrimination – The act of denying rights, benefits, justice, equitable treatment, or access to facilities available to all others, to an individual or group of people because of their race, color, gender, age, religion, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, national origin; physical or mental disability; or other defining characteristic.


  • Harassment – Verbal remarks or the display or circulation of written materials or pictures degrading to gender (either male or female); racial, ethnic, religious groups; or to persons of a particular age, color, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity; or those having a mental or physical handicap; and degrading verbal remarks directed at or made in the presence of members of any those groups; and any conduct which amounts to bullying or creating a hostile work environment. Harassment also includes sexual harassment which is comprised of, but not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other offensive verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature, and jokes of a sexual nature or display of photos or pin-ups of nude or scantily clad individuals.


  • Sheriff’s Office Employee – All compensated personnel of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and official members of the SJCSO Volunteers in Partnership (V.I.P.) or the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office Foundation.


PROCEDURE:


RULES OF CONDUCT


All Sheriff’s Office employees shall adhere to the following rules of conduct by:

  • Not engaging in harassment or discrimination while on duty or on county premises.
  • Not retaliating or discriminating against any person who reports or makes a complaint of harassment or discrimination. No employee shall retaliate or discriminate against any person who testifies, assists, or participates in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing regarding a report or complaint of harassment or discrimination.
  • Basing any allegations of harassment or discrimination on good faith and on facts that are believed to be true to the best of the complainant’s knowledge.


REPORTING, INVESTIGATING, & DOCUMENTING


To prevent the escalation of harassment at an early stage, any Sheriff’s Office employee who believes that he or she is the subject of harassment or discrimination will immediately file a complaint with his or her supervisor or the Chief Human Resources Officer. It is strongly recommended that an employee file the complaint with both his or her supervisor and the Chief Human Resources Officer. The purpose for this dual notification is to maximize the protection of a potential victim by ensuring appropriate actions are taken to prevent the unwanted behavior from continuing in the event there is an intradepartmental delay.


In the event that the Chief Human Resources Officer is notified of a complaint of harassment or discrimination involving a Sheriff’s Office employee, the Chief Human Resources Officer will notify the Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Division without undue delay to allow for appropriate preventative measures to be taken and commence the formal investigation.


Every employee has the right to go outside his or her chain of command, to another supervisor or the Chief Human Resources Officer, to make a complaint of harassment or discrimination.


Any Sheriff’s Office employee, who becomes aware of an incident amounting to harassment or discrimination, is encouraged to immediately file a complaint with his or her supervisor and the Chief Human Resources Officer. Similarly, any employee who witnesses an incident of such conduct taking place is encouraged to take reasonable measures to promptly cease the behavior and make the appropriate notifications without undue delay.


Contrary to the San Juan County Employee Handbook, all allegations of harassment or discrimination involving Sheriff’s Office personnel will be investigated by the Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Division. The guidelines set forth in the Sheriff’s Office Administrative Investigations Policy will be adhered to during all investigations.


Sheriff’s Office supervisors have a duty to take initial action on all harassment or discrimination claims brought to their attention, regardless of who complains or whom the complaint is made against. (PER.02.02)


In the event a Sheriff’s Office supervisor is made aware of any past incident of harassment or discrimination, he or she will immediately notify his or her chain of command, generate an internal complaint, and make an initial attempt to gather statements and preserve any possible evidence.


When a Sheriff’s Office supervisor is a witness to a harassment or discrimination incident, he or she has the duty to immediately stop the action from continuing. An immediate notification to the chain of command will be made and an internal complaint generated.


In either case, and if needed, the supervisor has the authority to make a temporary adjustment to work conditions, primarily limited to district assignments, to prevent further conduct from continuing. Clear instructions will be given to involved employees that interaction not directly related to professionally achieving Sheriff’s Office related duties is prohibited.


Internal complaints generated by supervisors should be completed through the Sheriff’s Office incident management software and contain the name(s) of the alleged victim(s), the name(s) of the alleged offender(s), the name(s) of any witness(es), the date(s) and time(s) of the offending conduct, a description of the offending conduct, any adjustments made to work conditions, and all other supporting information available. This internal complaint will then be sent through the chain of command and forwarded to the Chief Human Resources Officer for notification purposes. It is important to clarify that the extent of a Sheriff’s Office supervisor’s investigation is limited to the initial information gathering which will be documented in an internal complaint. The detailed investigation is conducted by the Internal Affairs Division.


While an investigation remains pending, there shall be no adverse consequences taken with respect to either the complainant, the alleged victim (if different than the complainant), or the alleged offender. However, if the Sheriff, following consultation with the Chief Human Resources Officer, determines that it would be in the best interest of the County for the involved parties to have limited contact pending the completion of the investigation, the schedules of the parties, or the employment relationship between the parties, may be temporarily altered, as long as there is no change to the salary, benefits, or status of the involved employee(s).


For privacy purposes, all investigations regarding harassment or discrimination will be conducted in as confidential a manner as possible without compromising the investigation. Information obtained during the investigation will be shared on a “need-to-know” basis. County employees privy to the contents of the complaint and information gathered during an investigation is limited to the direct chain of command for the involved parties (unless a person in the chain of command is directly linked to the investigation as a complainant or alleged offender), the Internal Affairs Division, the County Attorney, the Chief Human Resources Officer, and the County Executive Officer. (PER.02.03)


At the conclusion of the investigation, the Internal Affairs Division will notify the Sheriff and the Chief Human Resources Officer via a prepared written report documenting all of the factual information and evidence gathered during the investigation. If the facts of the investigation support a finding of harassment or discrimination, the Chief Human Resources Officer will provide a recommendation for disciplinary action. The report, and if applicable, recommendation for action, will be forwarded to the County Executive Officer who may concur with the recommendation or suggest other appropriate steps be taken. The final decision in regards to the level of disciplinary action taken against a Sheriff’s Office employee will be determined by the Sheriff.


Once the Sheriff has made a final determination in regards to the level of disciplinary action to be imposed for substantiated complaints, it is the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office to notify the victim(s) and/or offender(s) of the findings, provided he or she is a Sheriff’s Office employee. Notification to involved non-Sheriff’s Office employees is the responsibility of the Chief Human Resources Officer. For privacy purposes, this notification will be limited to general information on a “need-to-know” basis.


In the event the investigation does not support a finding of harassment or discrimination, no adverse action shall be taken against any involved party on that basis.


If during the course of the investigation, conduct is discovered and sustained which justifies disciplinary action against an employee for employment related reasons other than those set forth within this policy’s definition of harassment or discrimination, the Sheriff may impose disciplinary action upon the employee who engaged in such conduct. This disciplinary action can occur even when the disposition of the harassment or discrimination complaint is “unfounded”.


Unless (or until) required by law, no copy of the investigator’s written report shall be provided to either party at that time. The notice given to the alleged offender shall identify what, if any, disciplinary action is being imposed upon him or her. In the case other misconduct involving a Sheriff’s Office employee is discovered during the investigation, only directly involved employees will be notified of such.


In the event there is clear and convincing evidence that a complainant has intentionally made a false accusation against another employee, the complainant shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. However, employees must understand that not every complaint determined to be “unfounded” based upon available evidence will be deemed to have been made in bad faith. In order for bad faith to be found, and for the Sheriff’s Office to impose disciplinary measures upon a complainant, there must be clear and convincing evidence of intentional misconduct by the complainant.


All initial complaints, written reports and other records of completed harassment or discrimination investigations, and all copies thereof, including those generated in connection with a complaint determined to be “unfounded”, will be maintained by Human Resources and in the secure Sheriff’s Office IA database. No copies of any such records shall be maintained in any other department or file.


GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE


A Sheriff’s Office employee may utilize the Sheriff’s Office grievance procedure to appeal any disciplinary action taken, including termination, following an investigation of harassment or discrimination. The procedure for grieving disciplinary action will be in accordance with Sheriff’s Office Grievance Procedures Policy.


ADMINISTRATIVE:


TRAINING:


All employees will receive annual training on the prohibition of harassment and discrimination as well as the contents of this policy.


CROSS REFERENCES:


  1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  2. Unlawful discriminatory practice [28-1-7 NMSA 1976]
  3. SJCSO Policy ADMN-124.00 “Administrative Investigations”
  4. SJCSO Policy PERS-504.00 “Grievance Procedures”
  5. San Juan County Employee Handbook; Section 18 – Harassment and Discrimination