Sacramento – Last week, the Joint Committee on Rules approved an overhaul of the Legislature’s policies concerning sexual harassment with the ultimate goal of fostering a meaningful culture change inside the Capitol community. As a member of the Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response, Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino), helped to shape the new policy revisions that were released last week.
“The Legislature, like many industries, has been grappling with changes in the wake of the #MeToo movement, particularly after the sexual misconduct allegations against members of our own body,” said Assemblymember Reyes. “Workplace harassment creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, and offensive environment. These actions wreak havoc on its victims, and can cause lasting physical, mental, and emotional effects.” Assemblymember Reyes continued, “We cannot let the fear of retaliation and the psychological wounds caused by such actions prevent victims from seeking justice.”
As part of the Joint Committee on Rules, the Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response held eight informal hearings which started in November of last year. The discussions at these hearings engaged expert testimony on the importance of culture change to address harassment in the Legislature. These hearings and the feedback provided, as well as a survey that was circulated throughout the Legislature to staff, were formed into recommendations to the Joint Committee and reflect the deliberations of the Subcommittee. These goals included:
-Transform the Legislature’s workplace culture to promote respect, civility and diversity and every person’s responsibility to build that culture.
-Address problems early.
-Investigate reports promptly.
-Create an independent panel of subject-matter experts to determine facts and recommend the House’s response to reports.
-Maintain policy on disclosure related to sexual harassment.
The recommendations from the Subcommittee were presented to the Joint Committee last week and after consideration, became part of the Joint Committee recommendations. These widespread policy changes outlined and passed by the committee seek to address many of the issues that have been brought to the body as barriers to having a fair and transparent policy to address sexual harassment. These include:
-An independent investigative body to look into reports of harassment
-An independent panel of experts on harassment to review investigative evidence and issue findings of whether accusations are substantiated
-Transparent processes so relevant parties are informed of the progress of investigations
-Privacy protection and accountability
-Early reporting of actions that diminish respect and civility, to allow for corrective action, and to prevent harassment requiring punitive action
-Revamped and engaging training to outline responsibilities
-Examples set by leadership, and a call for all staff to take responsibility
-Addressing harassing behaviors by parties not employed by the Legislature
-Maintain current policy on disclosure for transparency exceeding other government agencies
Documents, including policy recommendations approved by the Joint Committee on Rules and written information from hearings, can be found on the Joint Committee on Rules’ website at http://assembly.ca.gov/jointrules.
Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes represents Assembly District 47 which includes the cities of Fontana, Rialto, Colton, Grand Terrace, San Bernardino and the unincorporated areas of Muscoy and Bloomington.