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Douglas County Personnel Rules

Douglas County Personnel Rule #22


22.1  Harassment Policy.

The Board is committed to maintaining a work environment that will allow all employees to work in a setting free from all forms of unlawful discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, color, religion, gender (sex), national origin, age, disability or retaliation (e.g., opposing prohibited discrimination or participating in an investigation into prohibited discrimination).

Harassment in any form adversely affects morale, motivation, and job performance. It results in increased absenteeism, turnover, inefficiency, and loss of productivity. It is inappropriate, offensive, and illegal, and it will not be tolerated in County government.

All employees of Douglas County are responsible for avoiding behavior that constitutes harassment. Department heads and supervisors at all levels are responsible for eliminating harassment in the workplace in accordance with this rule.

22.1.1  Harassment.

Harassment is verbal or physical conduct that demeans or shows hostility or dislike toward an individual because of their race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability, or that of their relatives, friends, or associates, and that:  has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment,  has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual´s work performance,  or otherwise adversely affects an individual´s employment opportunities.

Harassing conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:  Epithets, slurs, negative stereotyping, demeaning comments or labels, or threatening, intimidating or hostile acts that relate to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability, and  written or graphic material that demeans or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability and that is placed on walls, bulletin boards, or elsewhere on the employer´s premises, or circulated in the workplace.

Any employee who believes they have been the subject of harassment should report the circumstances immediately to their supervisor.  An employee may contact the department head or the Human Resources Director without first contacting their supervisor.

Reports of harassment or retaliation will be promptly investigated by the supervisor and/or department head.  Confidentiality will be maintained to the extent possible, consistent with the County´s need to conduct an adequate investigation and to take prompt corrective action to rectify any harassment or retaliation in violation of this policy which is found to have taken place.  The Human Resources Director shall be notified of the complaint and investigation process.

No employee will suffer any retaliatory treatment or adverse consequences as a result of acting in good faith to report the harassment or to participate in an investigation.  Such retaliation will not be tolerated.

22.2.1  Sexual Harassment.

Sexual harassment is a form of gender (sex) discrimination.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined sexual harassment as follows:  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:  Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual´s employment,  Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or  Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

22.2.2 Sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to, the following behavior: Sexual jokes, innuendoes, or suggestive comments.  Displaying nude or sexual pictures, cartoons, magazines, or calendars at the workplace.  Slang, names, or labels that others find offensive such as honey, sweetie, babe, boy, or girl.  Derogatory or physically descriptive comments about or towards another employee. Suggestive looks or leering. Unwelcome touching or physical contact. Repeated romantic overtures after being rebuffed. Sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. Stalking the employee who is the object of the harasser´s interest. Laughing at, ignoring, or not taking seriously an employee who experiences sexual harassment. Continuing offensive behavior after an employee has objected to that behavior.

22.2.3    Coworkers, employees from other County departments, invitees, and others who have access to County facilities may create a hostile or offensive work environment by subjecting County employees to verbal or nonverbal behavior of a sexual nature. Department heads and supervisors at all levels are responsible for taking prompt, appropriate action to eliminate a hostile work environment.

22.2.4    Except as otherwise stated in these rules, grievances or complaints concerning sexual harassment shall not be subject to Personnel Rule 11, but are subject to the procedure set forth below.

22.2.5    An employee who is subjected to sexual harassment should tell the harasser to stop the offensive conduct and report the incident to the employee's supervisor. Incidents of sexual harassment also shall be reported to the department head by employees who observe or are aware of the offensive behavior, but are not personally subjected to harassment. Department heads shall immediately notify the Human Resources Department of any complaints, reports, or observations.

22.2.6    No employee will suffer any retaliatory treatment or adverse consequences as a result of acting in good faith to report the harassment or to participate in an investigation.  Such retaliation will not be tolerated.

22.2.7    If a department head is subjecting an employee to sexual harassment, or an employee believes that reporting sexual harassment to the employee's department head will not facilitate immediate remedial action, the employee may report the sexual harassment directly to the Human Resources Department.

22.2.8    The Human Resources Director, or his designee, shall promptly investigate all reported incidents of sexual harassment.  Department heads shall cooperate with the Human Resources Department in investigation of incidents, and no department head shall conduct an independent investigation.

22.2.9    The Human Resources Director shall make findings on the allegation of sexual harassment which shall be reported to the department head and the aggrieved employee. If the offended employee is dissatisfied with the decision of the Human Resources Director, the offended employee may appeal to the Board of Commissioners.

22.2.10  If the Human Resources Director determines that sexual harassment has occurred, the Human Resources Director shall promptly recommend appropriate corrective and disciplinary action to the department head or the Board.

22.2.11   Any employee who subjects another employee to sexual harassment and any supervisor who knowingly allows, facilitates, or tolerates a hostile work environment in violation of this rule will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

22.2.12  Disciplinary action may be taken against an employee who makes a false report of sexual harassment, only if the Human Resources Director determines by clear and convincing evidence that the employee intentionally made a false allegation regarding a material issue. Regardless of the outcome of an investigation by the Human Resources Department, no supervisor or other employee shall retaliate, through disciplinary action or otherwise, against any employee for reporting sexual harassment, unless the Human Resources Director recommends disciplinary action under this rule.

Any disciplinary action under this rule shall be subject to applicable provisions of Personnel Rules 11 and 12.

22.2.13  Sexual harassment may subject the County to tort actions or civil rights actions under state or federal law. If the Board finds that a County employee has engaged in a continuing pattern of sexual harassment or has committed flagrant incidents of sexual harassment, the Board may consider such behavior to be malfeasance in office or willful or wanton neglect of duty. In that case, the Board may refuse to defend or indemnify the offending employee against any civil actions, and to the extent permitted by law, the County may seek indemnity for damages resulting from the offending employee's behavior.