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Jan 23, 2004 - 01:45 PM

The Other Sexual Harassment Problem

by Doug Heller and Carmen Balber
In November, the governor issued Executive Order No. 2, which requires the review of all pending regulations, forces state agencies to do their job twice and gives big companies a reprieve on consumer and environmental protection laws. A less heralded section of that order -- Paragraph 2 -- was stealthier, but may do even more to bring the normal operation of the state to a halt.

Paragraph 2 calls on every state agency to identify "any guideline, criterion, bulletin, manual, instruction, order, or standard of general application which has not been adopted as a regulation." All of these so-called "underground regulations" are demoted to "opinion-only" status and no longer "carry the force of law."

Until Arnold stepped in, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) had a "policy to provide a work environment free from all forms of sexually harassing conduct and/or behaviorů[that] Prevents inappropriate conduct that constitutes sexual harassmentů[and] creates strict 'zero tolerance' policy," according to a DCA memo that ArnoldWatch has obtained. Under Executive Order 2, that policy is no longer legally binding. Read the memo at:

With sexual harassment prevention on "opinion-only" status, are DCA employees free to define for themselves what a harassment-free workplace looks like? What does a sexually harassed DCA employee do when her assailant claims that, without any guidance, he didn't know he was doing anything wrong?

Arnold's sweeping Executive Order didn't just toss out sexual harassment policies. The DCA's discrimination policy was cited as another underground regulation. So was the agency's commitment to increasing the number of contracts it awards to small businesses and business enterprises run by disabled veterans.

There are, no doubt, hundreds more of these simple, but important rules, procedures and systems that Arnold's Order has unnecessarily undermined. Whether hamstringing state agencies was pre-meditated or just a colossal blunder, Arnold should head back to Sacramento and fix this problem.

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