Legislation Addressing Sexual Harassment Signed Into Law

On Nov. 16, the Governor signed legislation introduced in response to recent allegations of sexual harassment in and around the Statehouse. House Bill 137 will give the Legislative Inspector General power to investigate all complaints submitted during the last three years.

The post of Legislative Inspector General had been vacant since 2015. It was only recently discovered that during the vacancy, complaints were filed but never addressed. However, a statute of limitations in current law may prohibit the new Special Legislative Inspector General from moving forward with an investigation of some complaints, which is why House Bill 137 was introduced to allow the newly-appointed Inspector General to look into these complaints that occurred between the dates of December 2014 and November 2017.

Senate Bill 402 was also signed into law this week, a measure specifically prohibiting sexual harassment of legislators and lobbyists. The measure also requires state agencies and lobbyists to adopt a sexual harassment policy, and requires all state officials, employees, and lobbyists to complete in person sexual harassment training on an annual basis. The new law also imposes penalties for violations of the sexual harassment prohibition and requires the Department of Human Rights to implement a hotline to report sexual harassment. 

The passage of these laws are first steps to addressing the problem of sexual harassment at the Capitol. Members of the Senate are taking further steps to combat this issue, with the creation of a new task force on sexual discrimination and harassment, which is currently in development.

Dale Fowler

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