State now has clear harrasment policy
Louisiana has spent more than $5 million on lawsuits involving sexual harassment claims since 2009, according to a legislative audit released in April. Two recent incidents helped spur creation of a state policy on sexual harassment at this year’s regular session, which received unanimous legislative support.
The legal settlement that ended a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Secretary of State Tom Schedler involves a $149,075 state payment to the woman who filed the suit. Sixty percent of that is being paid through the secretary of state’s office and the rest through the Office of Risk Management, the state’s self-insurer. Schedler is paying an additional $18,425.
Johnny Anderson, a former top aide to Gov. John Bel Edwards, resigned last November after being accused of sexually harassing a woman. The settlement of that complaint cost taxpayers $108,000. Anderson denied the allegations in the legal settlement.
Edwards subsequently created a study group on sexual harassment, and the legislative auditor also conducted a review of the issue.
State Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, sponsored House Bill 524 that became Act 270 of 2018. It requires each agency head to develop and institute a policy to prevent sexual harassment, which is applicable to all public servants in those agencies.
The legislation requires the issuance of a clear statement from agency heads that unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, physical or inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment and that such conduct won’t be tolerated.
An effective complaint or grievance procedure has to be established that includes taking immediate and appropriate action. It has to identify who may make a complaint and to whom it should be made. There can be no retaliation for filing a complaint, testifying or participating in any way in an investigation.
The policy has to be prominently posted on the agency website or in a conspicuous location in the offices of each agency. Every public servant has to receive a minimum of one hour each year of education and training on preventing sexual harassment. Supervisors need additional education and training.
We urge those who carry out these provisions to be diligent about their responsibilities. Taxpayers and state workers deserve nothing less.