Senate committee issues report on sexual harassment policies

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
MASSACHUSETTS SENATE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133

Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

May 15, 2018

Senate committee issues report on sexual harassment policies

(Boston) – Today, the Special Senate committee to review the sexual harassment policies and procedures issued  a report making recommendations to update and enhance the existing sexual harassment policies and procedures in the Senate.

The Senate takes the issue of sexual harassment very seriously. As a legislative body and as an employer, the Senate must work to ensure that its anti-harassment policies are robust and effective.  The Senate’s existing policies and training requirements are comprehensive. However, as outlined in this report, there is more to be done to ensure that the Senate achieves its goal of a harassment-free workplace.

Over the course of the committee’s review, members assessed and evaluated the Senate’s existing sexual harassment policies and procedures to ensure that any victim or witness of sexual harassment, including those working in or conducting business with the Senate, feels comfortable and supported in coming forward and reporting their experience. Committee members also sought to ensure that there are appropriate procedures in place to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and take action when necessary.

“Harassment of any kind has no place in the Massachusetts Senate and will not be tolerated,” stated Senator Joan B. Lovely, Chairperson of the Committee. “The committee’s thorough and thoughtful review of sexual harassment policies and procedures will undoubtedly make improvements to the work environment. The recommendations in this final report will take positive steps in advancing a workplace culture that supports victims of harassment and seeks to prevent harassment from ever taking place.”

“I would like to thank my Senate colleagues and staff for their hard work on this pressing issue,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The recommendations presented contain much needed clarity around our sexual harassment policies and procedures, and serve as a good road map for better practices moving forward.  Like all of the members of the Special Senate committee, I am committed to making the State House a welcoming, safe and respectful environment for everyone who passes through its doors.”

“This report reflects the Senate’s obligation to provide an environment free from harassment to all those with business before the State Senate, including employees, interns, members of the public, and advocates,” said Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton).

“The work of the Special Senate Committee strengthens the existing policy, requiring that it be regularly reviewed and updated, ensuring that the Senate will be a safe and welcoming place for all,” said Senator John Keenan.

The final report made recommendations for the Senate to improve its existing policy, expand training, and enhance the overall workplace climate of the Senate.

The Committee made the following specific recommendations for changes in the Senate’s internal sexual harassment policy, in the Senate Rules, and in the structure of the Senate’s administrative organization:

Strengthen the Senate’s current anti-harassment policies

  • In order to ensure consistent procedures, the policy should be updated to include a more detailed explanation of the procedure that will be followed when a complaint is filed. This should include the investigation procedures, the procedures for recommending disciplinary action, and any follow-up after a recommendation has been made.
  • The Senate Rules should be amended to explicitly state that a violation of the Senate’s anti-harassment policy by a member is considered misconduct, and shall be treated as such.

Enhance the Senate’s anti-harassment trainings;

  • Increase the rate of trainings from once per session to once per year
  • Develop an online training platform for new members and employees when they are elected or hired in-between trainings.

Improve polices and protections for interns and advocates

  • The Senate should work with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office to ensure that all lobbyists who register as such are made aware of the Senate’s anti-harassment policy and who to report to in the event of an incident with a Senate member or staff.
  • Formalize the current practice of Senate Counsel and Senate Human Resources to treat interns as employees for purposes of the anti-harassment policy. In addition to explicitly including Senate interns in the language of the anti-harassment policy, the Senate should adopt a uniform policy on interns in order to ensure a safe, positive environment for them.

Workplace climate and HR improvements

  • Provide greater independence and additional resources to the Senate Office of Senate Human Resources.
  • Develop and conduct an independent, anonymous workplace climate survey.
  • The Senate President’s Office should issue a statement of values at the beginning of each session regarding how members, staff, those doing business with the Senate, and visitors are to be treated.

Confidentiality and Retaliation

  • Clarify that retaliation against anyone, including bystanders, who comes forward or participates in an investigation is a violation of both the law and the policy and will be subject to disciplinary action, including that confidentiality of witnesses will be a core principle of any process.
  • The Senate should formalize the current practice of prohibiting the use of non-disclosure agreements.

“The recommendations of the report will improve and clarify policies and procedures when reporting instances of sexual harassment,” added Senator Lovely. “They will also help to foster a workplace climate that is supportive and encourages victims of sexual harassment to come forward and report.”

The Committee consisted of 9 members of the senate, 2 who were appointed by the minority leader. In addition to Senator Joan B. Lovely, who served as Chair, Senators Cindy Friedman, Cynthia Creem, John Keenan, Sonia Chang-Diaz, Karen Spilka, Anne Gobi, Donald Humason, and Richard Ross.

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