Palm Desert Council Expected to Adopt New Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Policy

Palm Desert Council Expected to Adopt New Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Policy


Palm Desert, CA

The Palm Desert City Council is expected to adopt a new harassment, discrimination and retaliation policy for city employees Thursday following the departure of former City Manager John Wohlmuth, who was asked to resign for circulating a nude photo of a city employee.

A city staff report prepared for Tuesday’s council meeting makes no mention of Wohlmuth but says the city’s harassment policy that has not been revised since November 2004.

In a statement issued after Wohlmuth’s resignation in April, City Attorney Robert Hargreaves pledged the city would take measures to ensure that harassment and discrimination in the workplace stops.

The proposed zero-tolerance ordinance outlines policies for confidential reporting of harassment and procedures for internal investigation of any complaints.

Under the proposal, complainants may also be referred to outside agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and discipline for violations can include termination.

If approved, the policy would be used for staff training by the end of September and be disseminated to all new hires, city officials said.

The city set up an employee reporting hotline in June, following unanimous support from the city council.

City officials said Wohlmuth was asked to step down after he circulated a nude photo he took of a city employee to city staff members. The photo depicted a male staffer poised to swim naked in Wohlmuth’s backyard pool because he had forgot to bring swim trunks.

Employees penned letters to the city’s Human Resources Department complaining about Wohlmuth’s behavior, stating that he laughed over the incident, saying “everyone should see” the photo.

One of the letters also accused Wohlmuth of “racist and sexual remarks, hitting a female co-worker, pulling a co-worker’s hair, bullying co-workers and otherwise acting in a very unprofessional manner.”

Former Palm Springs Economic Development Director Lauri Aylaian was selected among nearly 50 candidates who applied to replace Wohlmuth.