My remarks to the joint Assembly and Senate Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention & Response

State Capitol, Sacramento— My remarks to the joint Assembly and Senate Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention & Response. It’s a sub-Committee of the Rules Committee under both houses. Joint Committee Agendas and Packet documents.

Click the video below to hear my remarks to the Joint Committee.


Joint Sub-Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response

Thursday, Feb 15, 2018

I'm Sabrina Brennan, a Harbor Commissioner in San Mateo County, and I’m speaking today as a member of the public. I can tell you from personal experience that complaints and investigations are severely mishandled at the countywide special district that I represent.

Thank you for your service and for the opportunity to make the following remarks: 

There should be uniform anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and anti-retaliation policies, laws, whistleblower protections, education, and training across State and Local Agencies.  

In depth anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and anti-retaliation education and unconscious bias training should be a requirement for all elected and appointed representatives and government employees.

  • Current training lacks information about best practices for conducting independent investigations once a complaint is made.

All harassment, discrimination, and retaliation complaints should be investigated and the findings should be transparent.

Types of inappropriate behavior should be clearly described and consequences should be well defined.  Doing this would help move cultural norms in a positive direction. 

A panel of three or more people should select investigators and the panel must include both women and men. 

The complainant and complainee should be provided with copies of all investigation reports.  

A panel or a review board that includes both women and men should make recommendations about disciplinary action.

  • A commission or a statewide elected board might be a logical option for reviewing investigations and determining outcomes.
  • An appeal board could review decisions in the event a complainant or complainee was dissatisfied with an investigation or the outcome of an investigation. 

Recently I’ve been in conversation with Neil McCormick, Director of the California Special District Association about the need for anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and anti-retaliation training that includes best practices for conducting unbiased and independent investigations.  

However I’d like to point out that it’s not reasonable to expect that local agency associations like CSDA, the League of Cities, or an overburdened state oversight agency such as the Fair Political Practices Commission will be able to correct the long history of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. And it’s worth noting that many of those organizations lack gender diversity, racial diversity, and sexual orientation diversity in management positions, organizational governance, consultants hired to provide training, and newsletter, website, and social media content. 

This pandemic has been overlooked for far too long. A comprehensive statewide plan for addressing these complex problems must be thoughtfully developed, prioritized, and funded.   

It’s critically important that workplaces throughout California be safe and free from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. I applaud your effort to search for creative solutions. Thank you.

spectrum of sexual misconduct

Kathleen Kelley Reardon, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, University of Southern California Marshall School of Business spoke at the joint committee hearing.  Read her paper on the spectrum of sexual misconduct.