Scott Mandates Sexual Harassment Training in Updated Ethics Policy | Off Message

Scott Mandates Sexual Harassment Training in Updated Ethics Policy


Gov. Phil Scott issued a new code of ethics this week that applies to all of his appointees. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Gov. Phil Scott issued a new code of ethics this week that applies to all of his appointees.
Gov. Phil Scott updated the state’s ethics policy this week to include specific language requiring sexual harassment training for gubernatorial appointees. It also now requires appointees to prevent or stop any sexual harassment of which they become aware.

The updated policy, which applies to all of the governor’s appointees and some other staff, also requires officials to follow Vermont’s public records laws and to be up-to-date on their taxes. Scott officials say the changes represent the first major update to the executive ethics policy in multiple administrations.

“We’ve been talking about this since day one, and he wanted to take a fresh look at it and see if there’s areas where we might strengthen it,” said Rebecca Kelley, Scott’s spokeswoman.

Kelley said sexual harassment training had never before been mandated by the executive branch’s ethics policy. But recent revelations nationally about the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace led the governor and his staff to include mandatory trainings for appointees, Kelley said.

It’s not just a problem elsewhere. Seven Days recently spoke with several women who described being sexually harassed while working in the Statehouse.

The executive ethics policy applies only to state employees appointed by the governor and assistants or deputies hired by those appointees. Secretary of Administration Susanne Young said the Department of Human Resources is separately reviewing the state’s sexual harassment policies and training protocols for all state employees.

The state’s existing sexual harassment policies passed muster and don’t need any changes, Young said, but a recent internal review of training protocols showed room for improvement.

The review “actually determined our training could be better, our training could be longer, maybe our training could be face-to-face as opposed to online,” she said, adding that officials plan to announce changes to sexual harassment training soon.

The review also found that not all state employees are required to complete sexual harassment training. Young said some agencies treat the training as mandatory while others do not.

“It has not been mandated centrally from [the] human resources department to date,” Young said.

Jaye Pershing Johnson, Scott’s legal counsel, said gubernatorial appointees have always been required to follow the state’s human resources policies related to sexual harassment.

“This is a very specific message to the appointees by the governor that this is his expectation, and it really is just a point of clarification, of emphasis,” Johnson said.