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Bloomington proposes extending protections against harassment to contractors

Bloomington is proposing to strengthen protections against harassment for independent contractors and others doing work for the city.

Bloomington Human Rights Commission director Barbara McKinney said allegations of sexual harassment by a county contractor prompted the city to review policies in the municipal code and city personnel manual. The allegations were originally published in the IDS.

“We just realized there were gaps in our policy,” McKinney said.

The Human Rights Commission and Legal Department identified two sections of the municipal code to strengthen, according to a city press release. Mayor John Hamilton directed the review.

“In the modern economy, increasing numbers of those who work, including with the city, are independent contractors,” Hamilton said in the release.  “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.”

The first proposed change would protect “independent contractors, volunteers, interns and any others doing sanctioned work for the city” against harassment or discrimination. The amendment would explicitly state anyone doing work for the city could bring a complaint of harassment or discrimination and expect it to be investigated.

The second proposed change would require companies contracting with the city to share their policy prohibiting workplace harassment with the Human Rights Commission. This would require them to “define harassment, designate employees to handle claims and agree not to retaliate against complainants,” according to the release.

McKinney said there has been greater attention on treatment of contractors in the past couple years as more people are classified as independent contractors.

The proposed change will be submitted to city council Friday for consideration during the council’s next two meetings June 5 and 12, according to the release.

The city is also in the process of updating its personnel manual to clarify that city employees who harass anyone doing work for the city will be subject to disciplinary action.McKinney said this change is expected to take effect in early June.

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