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State & Regional Govt & Politics
Kemp’s sexual harassment policy now in force — but without added budget

Kemp’s sexual harassment policy now in force — but without added budget

Kemp’s sexual harassment policy now in force — but without added budget
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s new sexual harassment policy adds responsibilities to the small office of Inspector General Deborah Wallace (left). But Kemp said Wednesday there are no immediate plans to bolster the IG’s budget. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Kemp’s sexual harassment policy now in force — but without added budget

Starting this month, state employees who’ve been propositioned, groped, belittled or lewdly insulted on the job have more options for coming forward about the abuse.

Under Gov. Brian Kemp’s new sexual harassment policy, workers have the option of reporting to the Office of the Inspector General, the state’s new central clearinghouse for harassment complaints. Complaints can be made through a phone hotline or a website portal.

If workers choose to go the old route of reporting up the chain in their department, the IG’s office can take over the investigation if it doesn’t think a department can be impartial. Either way, departments have to notify the IG within two days of receiving any complaint, and the agency can audit records to make sure departments are following the state’s policies and procedures.

Kemp promised reforms after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation last year found the state’s haphazard system for handling sexual harassment complaints made reporting as risky for victims as for offenders. On his first day in office in January, Kemp ordered an overhaul of the system.

But asked Wednesday whether Inspector General Deborah Wallace’s added authority will come with any added financial or manpower resources for her office, Kemp said no — at least not for now.

“Obviously, if Deb feels like she needs that, we’ll be glad to look at that,” Kemp said, adding, “She believes in smaller, more efficient state government, like I do.”

The governor said the focus, for the time being, will be on training employees and managers.

“Once that’s done, we’ll just have to see what the workload is down the road,” Kemp said. “So I’m not too worried about that. I think it’s a worthy thing that we’re doing, and it’ll give all state employees and our constituents a piece of mind that they’re going to be treated the right way when they deal with state government.”

The IG’s office, which is responsible for identifying and preventing fraud, waste, abuse and corruption in the executive branch of state government, lists three investigators on its staff. 

Atlanta employment attorney Amanda Farahany, who reviewed several sexual harassment cases for the AJC in its research last year, said that without new resources, the rollout of the policy could be flawed. She estimated that to enforce a policy that covers some 80,000 employees, plus independent contractors, the state would need at least five employees dedicated to the task full time.

Prevention comes from having a true enforcement arm, the attorney said.

“If we start by saying we’re just going to tell employees to stop sexual harassing, and tell other employees that they need to report it, that’s not going to stop it,” Farahany said. “Employees already know that they shouldn’t sexual harass, and if they’re being sexually harassed they know that there’s an option to go talk to somebody about it.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As part of Gov. Brian Kemp’s new sexual harassment prevention policy, which is now in force, the state has uploaded training material to the Department of Administrative Services’ website. This is a still from one of the training videos. SPECIAL

Kemp’s sexual harassment policy now in force — but without added budget

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As part of Gov. Brian Kemp’s new sexual harassment prevention policy, which is now in force, the state has uploaded training material to the Department of Administrative Services’ website. This is a still from one of the training videos. SPECIAL

Another key to the policy’s success, Farahany said, will be what kind of training managers receive as opposed to rank and file employees.

Kemp’s reforms came about as a result of a series of AJC articles last year that found every executive department set its own policies and enforced them “to fit its culture and other business needs,” as an attorney for the state’s main human resources office explained.

In one case, a supervisor in the Department of Agriculture had two food safety inspectors accused of harassing a trainee sit down privately with her to hash it out and apologize. (The supervisor then thought better of it over a long weekend and make proper notifications to his superiors the following week.)

In another case, the Department of Public Safety said an assistant troop commander didn’t sexually harass a woman because she didn’t tell him to stop and she had shared personal information with him. This, despite that six other women had come forward about sexual comments he had made.

In another case, the AJC found, a 15-year Environmental Protection Division employee claimed a co-worker denied her a spot on an elite environmental cleanup team after she refused to do sexual favors for him. But because an HR manager apparently misunderstood her timeline of events, she was fired for giving false information after more than two hours of grilling by a GBI agent.

Kemp said Wednesday that he wants women — such as his own three teenage daughters — to have the same opportunities in Georgia as he has had.

“And having led an executive branch agency, I know how important all our employees are that are there,” Kemp, Georgia’s former secretary of state, said. “So we have a very diverse group of people in a lot of different ways, and they should be able to do their job without being sexually harassed. And I think it’s important that all of state government does that.”

His policy, however, doesn’t apply to employees under the state Board of Regents or in the judicial or legislative branches. While he’s been pushing for progressive changes, the state Senate has moved in the opposite direction recently, enacting rules that put a two-year cap on reporting abuse, when previously there had been no time limit.

The Senate rules also would sanction anyone who filed a complaint and made it public and bar cases from being investigated while a senator is running for re-election or other office. After an outcry from female lawmakers, as well as Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan urging lawmakers to revisit the rule change, a new policy is being negotiated and a vote could happen before week’s end. 


Requirements of Gov. Brian Kemp’s new sexual harassment prevention policy

  • All state employees under the executive branch must undergo sexual harassment training by June 1.
  • All new employees must be trained within 30 calendar days of hire. After that, they receive annual training.
  • Managers and supervisors must be trained within 30 calendar days of receiving a promotion.
  • Each agency must have at least two trained sexual harassment investigators, not of the same gender, by the end of March.
  • Sexual harassment complaints can be submitted to a victim’s supervisor or manager, their division director, their human resources director or their department’s designee for receipts of such complaints. Complaints can be written or oral, and can be anonymous.
  • Complaints can also be made directly to the state Inspector General’s office through a hotline or a web portal.
  • Each agency that receives a sexual harassment complaint must notify the Inspector General’s office within 2 business days.
  • Investigators must complete their work and issue a report within 45 calendar days of assignment. Agencies have 21 days after receipt of the investigative report to make a final determination and take action.
  • The Inspector General’s office has authority to collect and audit investigations from across state government.


Last year a series of articles by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed how the state’s haphazard response to sexual harassment complaints had created a toxic environment — derailing careers, shattering employee morale and making reporting risky for employees. The newspaper examined 205 cases from 21 agencies, and found that while upper-ranking employees often received light sanctions or none for harassing behaviors, lower-ranking workers accused of similar infractions got the ax.

During campaign season, several politicians promised reforms in light of the AJC’s findings — including gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp. On inauguration day, Jan. 14, Gov. Kemp kept his promise, issuing an executive order setting up a centralized system with uniform standards. But that system could tax the state’s new clearninghouse for complaints, the small Office of Inspector General, created in 2003 to investigate waste, fraud and abuse within state government.

Read More


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  • Do you like your tea served piping hot? Beware— you could be doubling your cancer risk, according to a new report.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran recently conducted a study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, to determine the association between drinking hot tea and esophageal cancer. To do so, they examined more than 50,000 people, aged 40-75, in Golestan, a province in northeastern Iran. They followed the participants for 10 years, tracking the temperature of the tea they drank as well as their overall health. During the follow-up, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were identified.  Furthermore, they found those who drank tea warmer than 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit and consumed more than 700 ml of tea daily were 90 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer, compared to those who drank less tea and at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius. >> Related: Drinking this type of tea could ruin your teeth, study says “Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” lead author Farhad Islam said in a statement. Tea is rarely consumed at temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius in the United States or Europe. However, in places like Iran, Russia, Turkey and South America, it’s more common to serve tea at that temperature or hotter, Peter Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, told CNN last year. The scientists do not know why drinking hot tea is linked with esophageal cancer, but this isn’t the first study of its kind.  A 2018 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that consuming “hot” or “burning hot” tea is linked with a two- to five-fold rise in esophageal cancer, but only among individuals who also smoke or drink alcohol. >> Related: Black tea helps you lose weight with gut bacteria, study says The analysts from that evaluation believe hot beverages may damage the tissue lining the esophagus, which could increase the risk of cancer from other factors, such as repeated irritation of the esophagus and the formation of inflammatory compounds.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to devise health care “waiver” programs that might ease insurance for some poor and middle-class Georgians passed a special House committee on Wednesday. The measure, Senate Bill 106, has already passed the state Senate. Its next step is to be seen by the House Rules Committee, the gateway to the House floor. Then, if passed without amendments, Kemp would have before him the legislation he first suggested word for word. “I’m very pleased with it,” said state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, who is chairman of the House Insurance Committee and led the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, which heard SB 106 Wednesday. The committee voted for it 11-3, with at least one Democrat in favor and no Republicans opposed. The often positive testimony from witnesses reflected the findings of Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls expressing a desire to figure out how to insure the hundreds of thousands of Georgia poor who are currently not eligible for Medicaid. The legislation would give Kemp the authority to request federal “waivers” to Medicaid and Affordable Care Act rules in order to design programs tailored to the state. It is possible that the waiver programs could end up insuring hundreds of thousands of poor childless adult Georgians who are currently ineligible for Medicaid. Or it might do something much less. The choice would be Kemp’s. The near unity among witnesses in favor of a waiver broke down over what exactly such a waiver should do. A parade of advocates testified to Smith’s committee that they supported the effort to expand coverage. But several, including Democrats, said the measure didn’t go far enough, and they either spoke against it or wouldn’t urge a yes vote. Many are concerned that as Kemp decides how best to shape the state’s Medicaid program, the bill limits him to dealing only with the population up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or those who make about $12,000 a year for an individual. Federal law encouraged expansion of Medicaid to all poor people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,000 for an individual. Several groups, including the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, praised the possibility of expanding Medicaid and asked for it to go to 138 percent of the poverty level. Georgia Watch’s Laura Harker praised the benefits of Medicaid coverage to the poor and to the economy. “We are, however, struggling with consternation about the 200,000 or so just above the poverty line that may miss out,” Harker said. State Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, is not on the committee but did testify. She said she was concerned not only that the bill stopped short at the number of poor people it would include, but also at the amount of power the bill gives the governor. There is no requirement for him to run his eventual decisions by the Legislature. One speaker, with the libertarian group Georgians for Prosperity, opposed the bill for the opposite reason, because he said insuring so many more poor people with Medicaid would encourage unemployment. Many said it was worth doing something rather than nothing. State Rep. Patty Bentley, a Democrat from Butler, was among them. “What we have on the table right now, my friends, I see as a way to help my area,” Bentley said. “So, my friends, I respect you, I honor you, but I’m voting for this bill.” Asked why they would restrict the governor to considering a smaller group of people, the committee chairman, Smith, and state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, who made the motion for the bill, both said that was simply what the governor requested. Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.
  • The American Kennel Club's annual ranking of the most popular dog breeds found that the Labrador retriever once again is the nation's top dog for the 28th year in a row. >> Read more trending news The AKC released its 2018 rankings on Wednesday. After Labs, the top five breeds nationwide are German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. Rounding out the top 10 are beagles, poodles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and Yorkshire terriers. All held their same positions on the top 10 with the exception of that German shorthaired pointer and Yorkshire terrier swapping the ninth and 10th position. Labs have been on top since 1991 when they unseated Cocker Spaniels from the number one slot and their reign is the longest of any breed since the AKC began the popularity ranking in the 1880s. At No. 9, the German shorthaired pointer notched its highest ranking since getting AKC recognition in 1930. These strikingly speckled hunting dogs are also versatile — some work as drug- and bomb-detectors — and active companions. “I think people are learning about how fun the breed is,” AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter said. The listings come from 2018 AKC registration data, and do not include mixed breeds. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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  • A Wisconsin woman was arrested for handing out marijuana cookies at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, police said. >> Read more trending news  Cathleen Krause, 57, has been charged with delivering THC, possession of THC and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, WBAY-TV reported. A witness told sheriff’s deputies that while she was attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, a woman dressed in a leather coat and green hat gave her a cookie with marijuana in it, according to a Shawano County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit. The witness turned the cookie over to the deputies. The deputies later tracked down Krause, who was 'visibly intoxicated' and smelled of alcohol and marijuana, according to the affidavit. When asked about the cookies, Krause pulled out a gallon-sized bag that contained cookie crumbs, WBAY-TV reported. The deputies then searched her and found a container with pills and some gummy candies, the news station reported. The Sheriff’s Office said the cookie and the gummies tested positive for marijuana. Krause appeared in court on March 18. As a condition of the $1,000 bond, she must remain sober, according to court records.