Last month, I published a piece looking at sexual harassment allegations and sexism complaints from City Light employees, and how the agency dealt with them. One part of the story looked at a petition demanding sexual harassment training that 42 City Light employees had signed, as well as a series of anonymous anecdotes about employees' treatment at the hands of men that were read to the Seattle Women's Commission.
Another piece to add to the story: On Tuesday, City Light confirmed that it had hired an outside investigator in October to look into the complaints read to the Seattle Women's Commission, and to answer the Commission's questions posed to City Light in the aftermath of that session.
City Light spokesperson Scott Thomsen described the work of the investigator as "a very thorough review of the complaints that have been shared with us."
After determining the scope of the problem, eventually the investigator will publish findings to determine whether the alleged harassment incidents happened.
This work is largely separate, however, from the bigger complaint and ask of the original petition: the allegation that one City Light division experienced "blatant sexism" and a "hostile work environment." That same division embarked on a culture change initiative last year, but several employees I spoke to felt the initiative was deficient in terms of addressing sexual harassment immediately and head-on.
How City Light—and the rest of city government, for that matter—chooses to deal with sexual harassment will be an interesting test case on the impact of #MeToo. Can institutions change to deal efficiently with sexual harassment, or create faith that sexual harassment will be taken seriously when employees fear HR simply exists to protect the city from legal liability? If sexual harassment training doesn't work—and research shows that's likely the case—will the city be able to implement other methods that increase reporting of a widely underreported issue?
To be continued.