Orange County supervisors on Tuesday moved toward establishing an online training program on workplace harassment for rank-and-file employees, an apparent reaction to the Bustamante sex abuse scandal.
“It’s very useful and it’s helpful and it’s indoctrinating,” said Supervisor Todd Spitzer, referring to online training for managers he received when he was an assistant district attorney.
They also directed staff to start developing a plan to have the county counsel and Human Resources departments run in-person training.
The county was roiled last summer by the arrest of Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante on a dozen felony sex crimes.
In the wake of criminal charges against Bustamante, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas openly questioned how Bustamante was allowed to repeatedly abuse women under his authority.
“We want to know how a wolf was kept in charge of his prey for so long,” Rackauckas said last July.
His office hasn’t yet announced any findings from that inquiry.
Spitzer pointed to a series of harassment and discrimination claims against the county as showing the cost benefit of better training.
According to figures Spitzer read at the meeting, the county has in recent years received:
- Twenty-one claims of wrongful termination,
- Nine claims of gender, age and Americans with Disability Act discrimination,
- Nine claims of racial harassment or discrimination, and
- Two claims of sexual harassment.
“It costs us money when people violate the rules,” said Spitzer, citing millions of dollars in payouts over the claims.
Vice Chairwoman Pat Bates, meanwhile, saw a bright side to those figures, calling them “minimal” when compared to the 17,000 county employees.
“When you look at these numbers, I think this is actually not bad news,” said Bates. “Apparently we have some of the right things going on in terms of the managers and the subjects, their employees.”
Supervisor Shawn Nelson suggested that the county plan to use its own staff to provide the training, starting in about six months.
“Long term we’re better off doing this in-house,” said Nelson.
Staff said Human Resources would need to add at least one staff member to handle the program full time.
The proposed training for staffers includes:
- Definitions of discrimination, harassment and retaliation,
- Laws against discrimination, harassment and retaliation,
- Definition of a hostile environment and how it can be avoided or eliminated,
- Personal liability for harassing behavior,
- How to report allegations of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and
- Information on how to file discrimination and harassment complaints.
The county is already required under state law to give discrimination and harassment training to its 3,500 managers and supervisory staff every two years.
When it comes to training those higher-level officials this year, county staff said they expect to pursue a sole-source contract because they didn’t receive any responsive bids.
Tuesday’s move also comes amid a growing sexual harassment scandal involving San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who is accused of inappropriately touching female colleagues.