CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- News about sexual harassment in the workplace has dominated headlines for weeks, sparking serious questions about company policies.
Now, following an investigation by NBC Charlotte's Defenders, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts is calling for a review of the city's sexual harassment policy, which hasn't been updated since 2010.
Legal experts told NBC Charlotte the city’s policy is too tough on victims and too lenient on people accused of harassment.
NBC Charlotte obtained a copy of the city’s sexual harassment policy, which shows you can get away with it three times, and still have a job with the city.
It’s a 2010 policy in a 2017 world. When it comes to sexual harassment, seven years feels a world away.
Meg Maloney specializes in sexual harassment cases. She said the city's policy is "outdated."
The Defenders team showed Maloney what we uncovered in the city’s sexual harassment policy; from the complaint process to possible punishments for city employees. An example of sexual harassment outlined in the policy involves “rubbing oneself sexually around or against another person.” According to the policy, a city employee would keep their job after doing that, at least on the first offense.
“That’s not an offense you should be able to keep your job, that’s ridiculous,” asserted Maloney.
In accordance with the policy, the violator would get a five-day suspension and a 180-day probationary period, but wouldn't be terminated until the second offense, documents show.
Other types of sexual harassment have even more lenient rules. The policy shows someone who displays sexually suggestive material gets three chances before losing their job. The first offense is counseling, then a one-day suspension on the second offense, followed by a three-day suspension on the third offense. The city employee would be terminated for a fourth offense.
“Those are things we should all know aren’t appropriate in the workplace, so why it takes four times for someone to get it doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Maloney.
NBC Charlotte brought the concerns to Roberts, who is now calling for the policy to be reviewed.
“I think the whole policy should be looked at,” said Roberts. “I think it is the right time to look at best practices around this country, how to we make sure our employees feel safe.”
Maloney was also troubled by the investigative process. Specifically, she says that the accuser could be suspended for three days if it’s found to be malicious, misrepresent, or tarnish someone’s reputation.
NBC Charlotte asked Maloney if she thought the investigative process is fair to the victim.
“Oh definitely not, what they’ve done is tried to intimidate people from making complaints,” she said.
It’s a quickly changing world and Maloney hopes the city of Charlotte will catch up.
“How you treat your employees is kind of a benchmark of how you treat your citizens,” said Maloney.
The city says all new employees and supervisors go through training on the policy, but some now hoping that policy itself will change.