Sexual harassment in state workforce would get new scrutiny from Brown proposal

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Gov. Jerry Brown’s final budget includes a down payment on a program designed to prevent state workers accused of sexual harassment from moving from job to job within the government.

It sets aside $1.5 million for the state Human Resources Department to begin monitoring sexual harassment and discrimination complaints in a central location, addressing a problem The Sacramento Bee documented in a November report detailing the state’s inability to readily track sexual harassment complaints across departments.

“The recent exposure of sexual harassment cases in California revealed the need to track complaints and analyze data related to claims filed by employees and the amounts paid in judgments and settlements of those complaints,” the request reads.

The money would let Cal HR hire a consultant and three employees to get a program up and running before the end of this year, according to a budget request from the Brown administration.

Cal HR spokesman Andrew LaMar said the system is under development but intended to track workers who have complaints made against them, and to follow up on the results of investigations into those claims.

The Bee in April reported on a number of state workers who kept their jobs or moved to different departments after the state settled sexual harassment lawsuits related to claims made against them.

Brown's budget request is moving forward on a parallel track with Assembly Bill 2713, which would require departments in state government to disclose data about sexual harassment complaints and settlements.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Freddy Rodriguez, D-Pomona, would require state departments to disclose information about sexual harassment complaints, settlements and court judgments. That information also would flow through Cal HR. The bill says the releasable data should not include information that could identify an employee.

“The sad reality is that men and women across California are subjected to this inappropriate and perverse behavior,” Dorrie Steadman, a prison nurse and representative of SEIU Local 1000, told lawmakers at an April hearing.

Both measures would get the public more information about costly sexual harassment complaints. Cal HR does not believe that the proposals would be subject to negotiations with unions.

Rodriguez's bill has the support of major state unions. It passed the Assembly 72-0.

Brown’s budget request shows that the reporting his administration is proposing would expand on a a service his State Personnel Board used to conduct each year until a reorganization he proposed inadvertently wiped out a disclosure requirement.

Until 2012, the State Personnel Board issued an annual report disclosing the number of discrimination complaints in each state department and the status of investigations. It included information about sexual harassment complaints, but did not disclose the cost of any lawsuits or identify any workers.

A 2011 restructuring of the State Personnel Board and Cal HR that Brown carried eliminated the board’s responsibility to create that document.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Caltrans, flush with gas tax revenue and a mandate to build, isn't the only state department racing to fill vacancies this summer.

The Department of Parks and Recreation opened a new website called "Live the Parks Life" that aims to recruit rangers, lifeguards and scientists.

"Working for California State Parks is more than just a job, it’s an opportunity to become a steward of some of the most important historic, beautiful and culturally significant resources in the state,” California State Parks Director Lisa Mangat said in a news release. “Our employees work tirelessly to preserve delicate environments, modernize visitor connections through technology, and protect and uphold the law – all the while remaining dedicated to living the parks life throughout California."

Cal Fire, too, is hustling to fill jobs. It's running a social media campaign highlighting entry-level and senior-ranking positions that it's recruiting to fill now. Its social media accounts show dispatchers, firefighters and helicopters in the field.

Recruiting at the Department of State Hospitals is even more direct. It's advertising salaries for new workers on Twitter.

One from Tuesday reads: "We're #hiring! One opening for PSYCHIATRIC TECHNICIAN INSTRUCTOR, RETIRED ANNUITANT, $64k-$86k, in Atascadero, CA."

Another from last week reads: "We're #hiring! One opening for PROGRAM ASSISTANT, $87k-$99k, in Atascadero, CA. #Apply by June 18."

Go to calcareers.ca.gov to get started on a state job search.

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