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Sexual harassment review to be completed by Sept. 30


The provincial government wants to have a comprehensive report into government sexual harassment policies by the end of September, according to the terms of a request for proposals issued late last month.

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Valerie Penton left the civil service in this province when she could not get an adequate response to complaints of sexual harassment she was dealing with in the workplace.  The provincial government says it wants report on policies and response to such complaints by the end of September.

The review is scheduled to begin at the end of June, and a consultant is expected to have a draft report ready by Aug. 1. After the government offers feedback on the draft, the final report is expected to be submitted by Sept. 30.

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In April, the Telegram published a series of stories on Valerie Penton, a former civil servant who was the victim of workplace sexual harassment and a privacy breach which allowed her harasser to learn her home address.

She felt unsafe in the workplace, and after months of trying to seek a resolution from human resources managers, she ultimately felt she had no choice but to leave the civil service because managers didn’t take her situation seriously.

She now lives on the mainland, going to school for a different career — a move directly tied to the workplace harassment she dealt with.

In response to The Telegram’s series of stories, Premier Paul Davis publicly promised the government would hire an independent consultant to do a review of the sexual harassment policies.

“I want to make sure that our policies are as up to date as they can be, that they are effective, that they meet the needs of our employees throughout Newfoundland and Labrador,” Davis said on March 30. “I have asked the Clerk to engage with an external consultant to review our policies, to make recommendations to us on how we can make improvements so we can have the best policies and responses to our public employees that we can possibly have, Mr. Speaker.”

The terms of the request for proposals (RFP) say the consultant should review the written policies dealing with workplace harassment, as well as how they’re implemented.

“The project requires a comprehensive review of the current Harassment and Discrimination-Free Workplace Policy as noted above, including the mechanisms that support them,” the document states, “such as the processes and procedures to submit complaints and conduct investigations, communications and messaging to all employees about the policy and program, employees’ role in maintaining a harassment and discrimination-free and respectful workplace, training to support the policy and program, as well as any information, technology or operational changes that might be needed and the Respectful Workplace Program’s role in supporting employees, managers and departments in addressing a range of workplace conflicts.”

In addition to reviewing the policies on paper, the RFP suggests the consultant should interview managers in the Human Resources Secretariat and the Public Service Commission as needed.

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