State Legislatures React to Sexual Harassment Allegations

Lawmakers have stepped down as colleagues bring charges; new training and policies introduced

Beth Mirza By Beth Mirza January 11, 2018

​A report from the Associated Press found that while most state legislatures have policies about sexual harassment, many lawmakers are not required to undergo training about what sexual harassment is or how to report it if they see it. More than 30 state lawmakers have been accused of inappropriate behavior at work. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is calling on state legislatures to prepare to deal with and prevent sexual harassment. 

Here are SHRM Online resources and news articles from other trusted media outlets on the Associated Press's report. 

States Rethink Sexual Misconduct Policies After Complaints

After a tumultuous few months that saw numerous lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct, a majority of state legislatures across the country are considering strengthening sexual harassment policies that have gone unheeded or unchanged for years.

A 50-state review by The Associated Press found that almost all legislative chambers now have at least some type of written sexual harassment policy, though they vary widely, and many are placing a greater emphasis on preventing and punishing sexual misconduct as they convene for their 2018 sessions.

Yet about a third of all legislative chambers do not require lawmakers to receive training about what constitutes sexual harassment, how to report it and what consequences it carries, the AP's review found.

 (Associated Press

Reaction from SHRM

"State legislatures, like all workplaces, should be free from harassing and offensive behavior," said SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. "There is an opportunity now for state legislatures to make that happen. Policies and procedures are important and must be put in place. But they alone are not enough. SHRM calls on state legislatures to build healthy workplace cultures that will support a harassment-free environment."

SHRM encourages all state legislatures to act by:

  • Committing to a workplace culture of respect, tolerance and civility—one that does not tolerate harassment and one in which everyone is held to the same standard.
  • Adopting a policy that defines workplace sexual harassment and provides a procedure for promptly addressing complaints.
  • Conducting regular, thorough educational training for  staff and lawmakers.
  • Educating supervisors to report to human resources knowledge of and concerns about unlawful harassment or other inappropriate conduct.
  • Preventing retaliation.
  • Ensuring harassment does not happen but fully investigating it—and acting on the results—when it does.

[SHRM members-only resource: Sexual Harassment Training for Supervisors]

State Lawmakers Face Sexual Misconduct Claims

More than 30 state lawmakers across the country have been accused of sexual misconduct or harassment during the past year. Here is a list of those who have resigned or faced other consequences.

(The Republic, Associated Press) 

Under Cloud of Sexual Harassment, Colorado Lawmakers Launch 2018 Legislative Session with Big Ambitions

The sexual-harassment scandal that rattled the state Capitol late last year became the focal point on the opening day of the 2018 legislative session Wednesday, overshadowing dueling election-year agendas.

(The Denver Post)

Tennessee Lawmaker Cites Provocative Clothing During Legislative Sexual Harassment Training

Near the end of the first-of-its-kind training for state House members designed to combat sexual harassment, one female lawmaker suggested women need to be mindful of the possibility of harassment if they wear provocative clothing. 

YWCA CEO Sharon Roberson, who led the training, said while what Rogers said about provocative clothing might seem logical, governmental agencies that enforce harassment laws on the state and national levels disagree. 

"That whole mindset is the culture that we have to change," Roberson said. 

(The Tennessean)

Md., Va.  Lawmakers Turn Sharp Eye on Sexual Harassment Policies

State legislatures in Maryland and Virginia have largely avoided the sexual harassment scandals that have erupted in state capitols around the country this year. Still, state lawmakers in both states are calling for changes to better protect legislators, their aides, interns and lobbyists from sexual misconduct.


Sexual Harassment Training Should Be Separate for Managers and Rank and File

Managers and the rank and file need to be told different things during sexual harassment training, so keep their training separate.

Employees need to know the basics on respectful and professional behavior and where to turn if they are the victims of sexual harassment, legal experts say. Managerial training should focus on how to end disrespectful conduct, how to avoid liability, how to handle complaints, the investigation process and anti-retaliation rules.

(SHRM Online)

Lackluster Harassment Prevention Training Can Be Turned Around

Even in an era where the need for harassment training should be apparent, many employees dread the instruction. Some complain that they are too busy to complete training. Others think the sessions will be boring, uncomfortable or redundant. It's up to HR to get employees engaged with  training programs.

(SHRM Online

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