ST. PAUL - Minnesota lawmakers should get additional training in sexual harassment prevention and more groups should be at the table to talk about solutions, two who conducted a survey on the prevalence of harassment in the Statehouse told lawmakers Friday, Dec. 14.
The recommendations came after an anonymous survey of Minnesota House representatives and legislative staff found that one in five experienced or witnessed something they would describe as sexually harassing behavior at work. The survey and an overhaul of House rules were prompted by the resignation of two lawmakers, one senator and one representative, who were accused of sexual harassment in 2017.
“If the shared goal is eliminating harassment and discrimination in the Legislature, people are best served by having as many partners in this as we possibly can,” Ben Weeks, a nonpartisan legislative staff member told the Task Force on Workplace Safety and Respect.
Weeks recommended that the Minnesota Senate, Legislative Coordinating Commission, lobbying groups and others enter into conversations with House lawmakers about eliminating harassment and bias at the Capitol.
Members didn't make any suggestions of their own Friday, but said they'd monitor progress under new rules in 2019 and recommend fixes as needed. Phone and email addresses have been set up to report complaints of inappropriate behavior.
"I know some people are too scared to say something and I think it’s too bad that we have that problem because I do believe that if we had those conversations in the right context and the right place that we can stop quite a bit of this," Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, said. Kiel chaired the task force.
House representatives are set to train in sexual harassment awareness and prevention in January. Speaker-designate Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said lawmakers who skip the training won't be seated on legislative committees.
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