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Milwaukee's anti-harassment policy should apply to all city employees, alderpersons argue

This comes after the city’s Department of Employee Relations (DER) concluded that the policy does not apply to one elected official, Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer.
City
Posted at 5:07 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 18:07:11-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee alderpersons are proposing a resolution that aims to enforce the city’s anti-harassment policy to all city employees, including elected officials.

This comes after the city’s Department of Employee Relations (DER) concluded that the policy does not apply to one elected official, Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer.

The department launched an investigation into allegations that Spencer harassed female city employees, including touching a woman without permission and saying offensive comments, according to the department's investigation summary. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported on the release of the investigation summary.

The probe states at least six employees complained about Spencer's behavior towards women. Nineteen people were interviewed last year, and all participated in interviews with DER on the condition of not being named in the report.

The respondent, Spencer, told DER during their investigation that he believes the allegations came from employees not happy he had won the election for city attorney. Spencer described the complaints as "making too much out of minor issues."

Spencer continued to DER investigators that he believes the city attorney's office is moving to a "good atmosphere." He emphasized that he has strived to get to know the department's 66 employees.

TMJ4 News reached out for comment to the city attorney's office, but did not immediately get a reply.

The DER report concluded that Spencer needs to "understand the role he plays" as city attorney - but that he is not bound by the city's anti-harassment policy. The probe instead concluded that comments based on gender are "not appropriate workplace behavior."

"The investigation did not conclude that adverse employment actions were not taken because of gender. Most, if not all, of the employment decisions that were brought forward during the investigation were made at the recommendation of the Deputies for legitimate work-related reasons," the DER's report concludes.

On Friday, three Milwaukee alderpersons proposed a resolution that would direct the DER to find the best way to make the city's anti-harassment policy applicable to all city employees, "elected or otherwise."

Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa and Alderman Michael J. Murphy introduced the resolution. Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic signed as a co-sponsor.

Zamarripa said in a statement that she is "surprised and dismayed" to learn that the anti-harassment policy did not apply to elected officials. They did not name City Attorney Spencer in the statement.

“This proposition is a simple one, as harassment should never be acceptable and there should be accountability for those who breach the trust of their co-workers," Zamarripa said.

Murphy added: “As an employer the city should have a strong stance against acts of harassment and there should be mechanisms in place to remedy these situations when they occur."

The alderpersons said the resolution will be heard at future Milwaukee Common Council meetings.

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