Connecticut state legislature updates sexual harassment policy after survey results

Connecticut state legislature updates sexual harassment policy after survey results

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Legislative leaders announced a new, more detailed sexual harassment policy Friday after a survey found roughly half of respondents didn’t know how to file a complaint and more than one-fifth had experienced a hostile environment. 

The survey, which polled lawmakers, lobbyists, media, and others who work at the Capitol, also found that 17.3 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “sexual harassment is a pervasive problem” within the General Assembly. 

Meanwhile, 45.8 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement and the remaining 38 percent neither agreed nor disagreed. Those who reported experiencing sexual harassment said lawmakers and legislative staff were most frequently responsible. 

As a result, legislative leaders revised their sexual harassment policy to provide more detail on the complaint process, who handles discipline, and outcomes when the perpetrator isn’t a lawmaker or employee of the legislature. 

“After an extensive review of the results of last spring’s survey, and working with experts and outside counsel, we believe that the updated policy makes clear that the General Assembly does not tolerate sexual harassment in any form,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, and Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said in a joint statement. 

“Our goal is to provide a work environment in which instances of harassment can be reported without fear of retaliation and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and free from sexual harassment, both subtle and overt.”

The survey was sent in the spring to 596 people whose jobs require them to be at the Capitol, gauging their experiences with sexual harassment and the General Assembly’s policy. 

Along with those mentioned above, respondents included legislative and nonpartisan staff, vendors and employees hired to work during legislative session. 

Lawmakers accounted for 14.8 percent of respondents, while lobbyists made up 22.7 percent and partisan and nonpartisan staff accounted for a combined 39.4 percent. 

The survey found that 49.66 didn’t know how to file a sexual harassment complaint. At the same time, 2.9 percent of respondents said they experience quid pro quo sexual harassment — offering a favor or making a threat in exchange for sex —, 22.2 percent reported experience touching, comments or other actions that made for a hostile work environment. 

Of the 25 incidents of quid pro quo harassment, respondents said 15 came from a lawmaker and another six came from “senior caucus staff.” 

Similarly, respondents said lawmakers were responsible for 86 of the 226 incidents creating a hostile work environment, while 64 were by legislative staff. Lobbyists, with 32 incidents, were the next highest group. 

Only 4 respondents said they reported experiencing sexual harassment. A separate question found 15 respondents believed the existing process failed to handle a complaint appropriately, compared with 11 who felt it worked fine. 

Additionally, only 38.3 percent said they would report a complaint if they experienced sexual harassment. A combined 77.57 said they would fear retaliation or have concerns about confidentiality. 

The revised policy expands on conduct deemed sexual harassment and encourages complainants to come forward within 180 days to preserve rights before the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. 

It also requires all employees and newly elected lawmakers to undergo sexual harassment training, and for the General Assembly to have an annual informational session to inform third parties of the policy. 

Additionally, it states the complaints can be made formally or informally to a supervisor, chief of staff or office director, human resources, appointing authority, designated office contact, or neutral outside party to be determined through an open bid process. 

If an investigating authority determines discipline against a lawmaker is warranted, the authority will notify the leader of the legislator’s caucus. If a legislative leader is the subject, the highest members of the leader’s respective caucus on the Judicial and Government Administration and Elections Committee will handle the complaint. 

If an investigation finds a third party acted inappropriately, access to legislative buildings may be revoked under the policy.


Twitter: @reporter_savino


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