Sexual harassment is pervasive. Even in statehouses. Even in the statehouse that, up until last year, many considered a leader in preventing it.
California lawmakers went beyond federal guidelines in 2006 by requiring sexual harassment training in statute. The law requires any employer with 50 or more employees, as well as all public employers and the Legislature, to conduct two hours of sexual harassment training for all employees in a supervisory position. It also requires that all legislative employees receive an informational brochure about harassment and that every workplace have a written policy in place.
The Legislature went even further and required all legislators and legislative employees to attend harassment training. And, finally, the Assembly created a bipartisan Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Prevention and Response, to hear complaints.
Despite these actions, in October 2017--a week after allegations of sexual assault and harassment against movie producer Harvey Weinstein first surfaced--a letter was published in various newspapers across the state claiming the Legislature had a "pervasive" culture of sexual harassment that included nonconsensual touching, inappropriate comments and sexual innuendo. It was signed by 140 women who worked in and around the statehouse, including six current and two former legislators.
"The letter shows that sexual harassment is as prevalent in the Capitol as it is anywhere else in society," Anthony Rendon (D), speaker of the California Assembly, said in response. "The Assembly takes our responsibility to prevent any sexual harassment very seriously, both in terms of training and reporting."
The Legislature then created a joint Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response within the Joint Committee on Rules to examine the issues.
The subcommittee met seven times in as many months and surveyed legislative employees on the climate in the statehouse. Subcommittee members wrote a new, joint legislative policy to replace the previous chamber-specific ones and, on June 25, published their final recommendations, which are being implemented now.
One significant recommendation was the creation of an independent Legislative Workplace Conduct Unit to receive, investigate and respond to complaints. The unit staff will have specialized workplace investigation training on sexual harassment and discrimination. A person making a complaint will now have the option of...