Kemp overhauls how Ga. treats sex harassment victims on first day

January 14, 2019 Atlanta - Georgia's 83rd Governor Brian Kemp speaks after he took the oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony at McCamish Pavilion in Campus of Georgia Tech  on Monday, January 14, 2019. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Combined ShapeCaption
January 14, 2019 Atlanta - Georgia's 83rd Governor Brian Kemp speaks after he took the oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony at McCamish Pavilion in Campus of Georgia Tech on Monday, January 14, 2019. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

It’s one of three executive orders he signed

Gov. Brian Kemp fulfilled a campaign promise by issuing an executive order on his first day in office that overhauled the state’s sexual harassment training program and made the state’s inspector general’s office the ultimate repository for complaints.

The order, one of three filed late Monday, essentially ends the current siloed system where each department handles cases in its own way. It also sets up new training requirements for state employees and managers.

State leaders have been under pressure to overhaul the system in the wake of the #MeToo movement and a series of Atlanta Journal-Constitution stories that exposed how the state's haphazard response to sexual harassment complaints has created toxic environments and made reporting risky for employees.

It also comes the same day the state Senate approved rules that require people who believe they've been harassed by a senator or a Senate staffer to bring their allegations within two years of the alleged incident. There had previously been no time limit.

Kemp's order calls for:

  • Every state employee to be trained about the state's sexual harassment policies within 30 days of their hire, and require all employees – including part-time and seasonal employees – to take the training once a year. New managers are also required to take special courses.
  • The implementation of "uniform" standards for handling complaints that specifically bans retaliation against anyone who reported or participated in sexual harassment investigations.
  • Each executive branch agency must designate two people – a man and woman – to investigate complaints and report to the state's inspector general's office. Each also must make sure employees can report complaints to someone who isn't their direct supervisor.
  • The state inspector general must come up with standardized training for employees who investigate the complaints, and must review each complaint notification and decide whether it can be impartially handled internally within the agency. If not, the office has the power to appoint an impartial investigator. It also has the authority to review a sexual harassment investigation at any time.

The Republican also signed an order that extends an ethics policy enacted under Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal that bans executive branch employees from accepting most gifts and establishes conflict-of-interest standards.

And he established an 18-member Georgia First Commission that is set to target regulations that "negatively or unnecessarily impact small businesses." The panel has until June 30, 2020 to report its findings.

Kemp said in a statement that he would tap business executives to fill the commission. His order drew praise from the National Federation of Independent Business, an early supporter of his campaign.

“Cutting burdensome rules and regulations and streamlining how state government works will remove some of the obstacles that make it harder for small businesses to expand and create jobs,” said Nathan Humphrey, the group’s state director.