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August 22, 2019

NYC Council sends staffers clumsy email survey about sexual harassment and discrimination

February 10, 2019
The questionnaire was hosted on the site SurveyMonkey. (Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images)

The City Council is hunting for creeps — on its own payroll.

Staffers at the city’s legislative branch were asked to fill out a questionnaire about whether they experienced or witnessed harassment or discrimination on the job — made using a free online survey website, the Daily News has learned.

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The survey was sent out by council chief of staff Jason Goldman in late December, just before the holidays. Several staffers polled by The News said they didn’t fill it out — and questioned how private such information could be kept if they had.

“I would imagine that there’s concern about it potentially coming back to the staffer,” one said. “I think another concern is that the Council is small enough that if it becomes public, people could potentially figure out what office it’s coming from.”

Another staffer said the survey was “seemingly well intentioned, but it misses the mark.”

Hosted on the website SurveyMonkey, the questionnaire was dubbed a “Climate Survey.”

“Your participation is entirely voluntary, but your responses will allow us to better assess the effectiveness of our efforts and the extent to which we may need to expand and strengthen them,” Goldman wrote in the email accompanying the form.

The survey asked employees if they’d “witnessed” or “personally experienced” discrimination or harassment, and to check off the basis for it — race, color, creed or religion, national origin, citizenship status, gender, age, pregnancy, medical conditions and even their credit history.

The survey was part of a set of rules the Council passed in early 2018 aimed at better responding to complaints of harassment and discrimination, Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office said. The goal was monitor for complaints of harassment by asking people directly and assessing the results.

But just 220 people responded to the survey, which was sent to about 1,200 people.

The surveys were anonymous and the council did not collect the IP addresses of people who filled it out, the speaker’s office said.

“As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement has shown, sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in every facet of society. The Council is committed to addressing the issue, which is why we last year passed some of the strictest anti-sexual harassment legislation in the country. Voluntary surveys like this help us monitor our workplace climate in an effort to combat workplace harassment,” spokeswoman Jennifer Fermino said.

The Council has not been immune to harassment issues. Last year the council’s ethics committee found that Councilman Andy King (D-Bronx) violated the anti-harassment policy in his interactions with a woman on staff. King, who denied violating policy, was ordered to undergo sensitivity and ethics training.

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