When it comes to getting lawmakers to take sexual harassment seriously, State House officials have said they only have so much control — that there's no rule forcing legislators to read the institution’s policy on harassment, let alone attend workshops on the issue. An anti-harassment training session held several weeks ago drew a turnout of only about 10 percent.
But some lawmakers think the institution should be held to a higher standard. Hampton Rep. Renny Cushing and several other Democrats are preparing a bill that would mandate annual anti-harassment training for all legislators and legislative staff.
“I think the sparse attendance a few weeks ago raised people’s eyebrows,” Cushing said. “I was surprised at how few people attended the training, particularly given the history of the legislature.”
That history he’s referring to is a landmark case in which a former legislative secretary claimed a lawmaker subjected her to ongoing harassment in 2001 and that the leadership team of then-House Speaker Gene Chandler retaliated when she complained about the legislator’s behavior. (Chandler was recently re-elected as House Speaker after several terms away from the post.)
As reported by the Concord Monitor at the time, “Never before [had] a State House aide filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a member — let alone the House itself.”
Cushing and his co-sponsors plan to add the language about mandatory anti-harassment training onto an existing bill seeking broader workplace protections for State House employees.