(Nov. 13) – This morning, Speaker Duran announced a number of steps to review the legislature’s workplace harassment policy and help prevent sexual harassment. Here is Speaker Duran’s statement:
“In the past week, there have been a number of deeply troubling allegations regarding sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by legislators in the Capitol. As Speaker, I am responsible for conducting investigations for any formal complaints that are filed regarding representatives and third parties. While it is my job to consider each case on the merits, here’s where I start: sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable, and we need to take this issue head on. Our legislature should be a place where everyone feels safe and respected, where anyone who has been subjected to harassing behavior knows that they can speak up and be heard without fear of reprisal, and where the arc of your career is determined by your hard work, qualifications, merit and skill.
“With that in mind, I think it’s important for us to look at the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy and ensure that it has adequate protections. Currently, there is a process set up through Joint Rule 38 where an individual can submit a formal complaint which then goes through an investigation. I believe there are changes that should be made to the policy to better ensure that victims’ voices are heard, and to raise awareness about what constitutes workplace harassment and what a person should do if he or she experiences it. Here are some first steps:
- We should conduct a review of the existing workplace harassment policy and identify if it needs to be changed, and if so, how. Given the allegations that have surfaced, we need to ensure that we have the most effective policy possible. This should include looking at measures that other states and the private sector are taking to improve their policies and seeking input from people who work at the legislature about what’s working and what isn’t. To that end, I have reached out to my fellow legislative leaders to set up a process by which we can thoroughly review the existing policy and make changes as needed. I am also requesting our non-partisan Legislative Legal Services and Legislative Council to review our current policy and provide their recommendations for updates.
- Addressing workplace harassment is too important to ever allow politics to get in the way. As part of this review, we should explore having an independent body handle complaints. Currently, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President are responsible for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints. While a third party can be brought in to investigate and issue recommendations (an option which I intend to exercise for any formal complaints that are filed), the fact remains that legislative leadership is heavily involved in this process. To safeguard against any possibility or perception that leadership might make decisions for political reasons, I believe a neutral third party should perform these responsibilities as a matter of course, and make formal recommendations to leadership for appropriate disciplinary actions.
- There must be safeguards to help us identify patterns of harassment. Under the current policy, any complaints and the outcomes of any investigations are confidential unless the complainant or the accused decides to share this information publicly. While there should be adequate safeguards to maintain confidentiality, there should also be enough transparency in the process to allow patterns of harassment to be clearly detected and handled appropriately.
- We should have yearly workplace harassment trainings that are inclusive of people who regularly work in the building. We have traditionally had a workplace harassment training for legislators every two years and for new staff when they begin. Due to the heightened need for awareness, legislators and legislative staff should receive this training annually and lobbyists and members of the press should be invited to attend. Everyone who works in the legislative process should be more aware of what constitutes workplace harassment and what their rights are if they encounter it.
“These ideas are a starting point for updating our policy so it best suits the needs of the people who work here, and is in line with best practices from around the country. I hope that my fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers will partner with us in this process. We must do everything in our power to prevent workplace harassment and ensure a safe, respectful workplace not only at the legislature, but across Colorado.”