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Legislators to draft new sexual harassment policy

Delaware Public Media

Some state lawmakers are looking to update the state’s sexual harassment policy, and include new language  so it would also apply to legislators and lobbyists.

The current policy only applies to state employees.

Delaware’s sexual harassment policy hasn’t been updated since 2005. It doesn’t cover lawmakers or lobbyists. There’s also no one inside the state legislature specifically tasked with probing sexual harassment allegations.

The House of Representatives has its own sexual harassment policy. Complaints can be made to the Majority Leader or Majority Whip. The Ethics Committee investigates and can recommend a disciplinary action to the full chamber to vote on.House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf said  he hasn't received any complaints during his time as speaker. He said the House could more clearly spell out a direct line between the staff policy and the Ethics Committee process for investigating claims by a staffer against a legislator.

"Additionally, the House Minority Leader and I are in agreement to institute sexual harassment training for all House members so they are better educated and aware of this issue and understand their role and responsibilities," he said.

Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) says he and Rep. Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) have started drafting a resolution outlining a process for making complaints and holding members accountable.

“Fundamentally it needs to be clear that as a matter of culture that sexual harassment is unacceptable, including in the legislature," he said. "And as part of of establishing that culture, you need a framework.”

Townsend said lawmakers need to show they don’t condone such behavior.

“Ending sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace doesn’t happen magically and the General Assembly is no exception," he said. "So, it’s really important for us to improve our framework to make it very clear how we want to address these issues.”

Allegations of harassment and inappropriate touching have emerged in several states after claims last month that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted dozens of women.

Outside investigations into complaints of sexual harassment by lawmakers are underway in California and Massachusetts. Half a dozen women in Florida have accused the state Senate’s budget chairman of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has called for lawmakers in the state who have settled sexual harassment claims to resign.

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