Bowser issues new sexual harassment policy after Falcicchio scandal

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser speaks at a June news conference about the investigation into sexual harassment allegations against her former aide John Falcicchio. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Tuesday unveiled a revised version of her administration’s 2017 sexual harassment policy, which she had been under pressure to review after her chief of staff and closest adviser, John Falcicchio, resigned in May following accusations of sexual harassment.

“We are underscoring the message that D.C. government does not, will not, tolerate any form of sexual harassment,” Bowser told D.C. Council members in a breakfast meeting Tuesday. “This has always been our value, and we have certainly seen over the last several months that we can have an even stronger policy in place. So this order, we believe, will set that clear expectation at every level.

a chain of command or with interns and recruits. That policy could have been relevant in Falcicchio’s case: One of the women, a junior staffer,that she feared Falcicchio would fire her or give her undesirable work assignments if she did not go along with his flirtatious overtures or pretend to be interested in him, though she ultimately rebuffed his attempts to have sex with her.

The Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel investigated both complaints against Falcicchio and substantiated allegations of unwanted sexual advances and lewd messages in both of them, though it was unable to substantiate other allegations including retaliation and bullying.The new standards for sexual harassment are intended to align with a 2022 law that broadened the definition of harassment and lowered the burden on victims to show they had been harassed.

Bowser’s updated order also seeks to clarify the required training for each agency’s sexual harassment officer, the various avenues for employees to lodge complaints and also establishes a task force to make recommendations related to trainings and policy changes.A report detailing the recommendations from the task force — which will be made up of representatives from the Office of Human Rights, Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel and the city’s Department of Human Resources — is due by May 1.

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