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Saturday, February 02, 2019
Sex Harassment: New House Rules "add another layer of silence"
By News Release @ 7:55 PM :: 2568 Views :: Ethics, Hawaii State Government

Adding Another Layer of Silence

SA: …Former Director of Human Services Rachael Wong filed allegations against Souki with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission. After the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on that complaint last year, at least four other women came forward with similar allegations against Souki, who eventually resigned as part of a settlement agreement with the commission.

Wong said that the policy’s section on confidentiality amounted to “adding another layer of silence on those who are already subjected to abuse of positional power.”

She said it was “putting a gag on those who have come forward and gone through a process that is already stacked against them, that requires individuals to put their names, their livelihood, their reputation on the line, to go uphill.”

Wong said that she was particularly concerned because the outcome of an investigation could be any­­thing — “the person goes on to continue in their job, is reprimanded, goes on to another job and nobody knows why and that person lands well and could commit a similar offense to other people.”

read … Hawaii House of Representatives updates sexual harassment policy

Why Critics Say New House Sexual Harassment Policy Doesn’t Go Far Enough

CB: It lacks an appeals process and requires secrecy even after cases are resolved….

Notably, the draft policy excludes the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, which rendered the Souki decision last year. Saiki doesn’t think the commission has jurisdiction over legislative personnel matters….

“For me, that is a glaring omission,” said Rachael Wong, the former director of the state Department of Human Services. She was among several women who filed ethics complaints against Souki and the only one to go public.

“If the State Ethics Commission had not been a viable option for me, I would have had nowhere to go,” she said in a phone interview Monday. She waited until after she left government service to report Souki and believes she missed the deadlines for other avenues. She also did not want to choose an adversarial legal route.

The draft policy also maintains secrecy throughout the process, and “any breach of confidentiality shall be treated as misconduct subject to disciplinary action, unless done so in the course of an action required or provided for by law.”…

At Monday’s press conference, Saiki didn’t know how many sexual harassment complaints had been filed over the past couple of years, and said he wasn’t sure if he could release aggregate statistics about the number of sexual harassment complaints and their results….

“This is putting a gag on the individuals who have put everything on the line to come forward,” she said, adding that imposed silence perpetuates bad behavior and reinforces levels of power….

Last April, Thielen says she observed a male legislator inappropriately touch a female representative. She wasn’t pleased with her experience trying to report the matter at the speaker’s office.  “I was treated as an annoyance,” she said….

Ashley Lukens, a former lobbyist who says she was sexually harassed during her time at the Capitol…didn’t report the harassment while working at the Capitol because she was worried about retribution….

“It just didn’t seem like it was worth sacrificing my entire legislative agenda which I had been working my ass off for years to get passed because a senator told me I was hot and I could meet him at his hotel.”…

Current Hawaii House Disruptive Behavior Policy

Proposed 2019 House Harassment Policy

read … Why Critics Say New House Sexual Harassment Policy Doesn’t Go Far Enough

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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMPLETES REVIEW AND UPDATES WORKPLACE HARASSMENT POLICY

New policy promotes a safe environment for all at the State Capitol

News Release from House Democratic Caucus, January 7, 2019

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki today announced the completion of a new House Workplace Harassment Policy including sexual harassment.

The new policy provides greater clarity of terms used to define harassment, expands reporting options, and extends protections to House members, staff, and the general public.

An advisory group recently completed an evaluation of the previous House Disruptive Behavior Policy and made recommendations relating to reporting, investigating, and eliminating inappropriate harassment behavior.

"This review has strengthened our harassment policy in several ways including enhanced clarity for registering complaints, accountability during the process, and personal protections," said Saiki. "The new policy has been carefully and thoroughly vetted by the advisory group, House members, and attorneys. The goal is not only to provide protections, but to create an environment that is civil and promotes public confidence in the institution and its members."

The new policy must be approved by the House during the upcoming session and will be detailed in Chapter 27 in the "House Administrative and Financial Manual."

Significant changes to the policy include:

  • Updates to definitions including examples of harassment, sexual harassment, and bullying to clearly identify the behavior.
  • Clarification of the reporting requirements and methods of reporting, the reporting obligation by victims and witnesses, and alternative options for recourse.
  • More information on the investigative process for relevant parties, including the requirement to provide the complainant with an estimated timeline for investigation completion.
  • Prohibition against retaliation and mandatory investigation of any reported reprisals.
  • Inclusion of members of the public in harassment policy protections.
  • Procedures for reporting complaints against the House Speaker.
  • Annual training for all House members and employees.

  *   *   *   *   *

HOUSE VOTES TO ADOPT NEW WORKPLACE HARASSMENT POLICY

From Hawaii House Democratic Caucus, Feb 1, 2019 

 Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – On Thursday, January 24, the House of Representatives adopted by resolution the House Administrative and Financial Manual for the Thirtieth Legislature 2019-2020.  Chapter 27 of the manual contains the House's new Workplace Harassment Policy.

"Changes were made to the House Workplace Harassment Policy to provide better direction, increase accountability, and facilitate appropriate follow-up of any complaints," said House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (McCully, Kāheka, Kakaʻako, Downtown). "This policy will help ensure that all members, staff, and the public are protected."

A sign detailing where to read the new policy will be posted in all members' offices, agency offices, conference rooms, and on bulletin boards.

The policy's changes include:

1. Changed terminology

Ended use of "disruptive behavior." While not an unacceptable term, it encompasses different types of workplace offenses and can be confusing, as those looking for guidance on policies regarding harassment, and especially sexual harassment, might be dissuaded from reading further.

Used terms "harassment" and "sexual harassment" instead, to provide clarity. (See #3)

Changed "Speaker's designee" to "Chief Clerk" to remove confusion or ambiguity as to who the Speaker's designee is.

2. Strengthened the policy statement (Sec. 27.1)

The goal is now not only to provide protection, but create an environment that is also civil and promotes public confidence in the institution and its members. The new statement also clarifies that even if something is not specifically illegal (for example, bullying could have the same effect as harassment, but is not based on a protected class), it could still result in disciplinary action.

3. Provided specific examples of harassment (Sec. 27.2)

Improved the ability to identify harassment in the workplace by providing multiple examples.

4. Provided definition and examples of bullying (Sec. 27.3)

While the House prohibited bullying in the past and included it in staff and member training, the activity was not specifically mentioned in the policy. The new policy includes a definition, examples, and specifically identifies bullying as a prohibited behavior subject to the same reporting, investigation, and resolution procedures as any other kind of harassment.

5. Clearly delineated sexual harassment as a prohibited behavior (Sec. 27.4)

While sexual harassment is a prohibited behavior along with other types of harassment, the new policy recognizes sexual harassment as a category that raises unique issues deserving of its own section. Not only does this change emphasize the importance of recognizing, reporting, and addressing sexual harassment, but it also makes finding information about it easier.

6. Provided specific examples of sexual harassment (Sec 27.4)

In order to help identify what sexual harassment is, different types of behavior (physical contact, verbal, non-verbal, quid pro quo propositioning) were identified, and specific examples of each provided.

7. Clarified reporting requirements and methods of reporting (Sec. 27.6)

Clarified that whether a person is the victim of harassing behavior or is a witness to harassing behavior directed at someone else, there is an obligation to report it.

Provided separate instructions for how certain individuals (members of the Legislature, employees, and public) are to report harassment.

Indicated other options for recourse, including the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Council, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, and state or federal court.

8. Provided more information on the investigative process (Sec. 27.7)

In order to make the investigative process more transparent, the new policy specifies what is involved, including who may be interviewed, who may be consulted, and who is informed of the investigation's results. Additionally, the new policy requires the investigation's guidelines and estimated timeframe for completion to be given to the complainant.

9. Prohibited retaliation (Sec. 27.9)

Prohibited retaliation against anyone who reports or complains of retaliation in good faith. This provision also protects any witnesses who are interviewed in the course of an investigation. Specified that any acts of retaliation or reprisal shall be investigated and disciplinary action taken if necessary.

10. Stressed confidentiality (Sec. 27.10)

Required all aspects of reporting, investigation, and resolution be confidential, and all individuals involved in any proceeding maintain confidentiality or face possible disciplinary action.

11. Established procedures for the public (Sections 27.1(b); 27.4(b)(4); 27.5; 27.6(b)(3))

Previously, there was no mention of whether the harassment policy applied to someone who was not a member or employee of the House. The new policy establishes that members of the public are entitled to the same harassment-free environment while visiting the House, and specifies that a member of the public may report harassment to any supervisor, the Speaker, or the Chief Clerk.

12. Established procedures for reporting offenses by the Speaker (Sec. 27.11)

The previous policy was silent on what happens if the cause of harassment is the Speaker. The new policy provides that harassment by the Speaker shall be reported to the Vice Speaker, who shall perform all the duties that would normally be performed by the Speaker. It also provides that the Chief Clerk reports directly to the Vice Speaker in all associated matters.

13. Required annual training for all House members and employees (Sec. 27.12)

The previous policy did not specify required training. Although permanent staff and members were provided training, it was not required by the policy, nor was a frequency established. The new policy requires annual training for both House members and permanent employees.

---30---

Background: Hawaii House Rules Prohibit Staff from Revealing "Illegal or Improper Conduct"

LINK: Full Text of New Policy

SA: Hawaii House of Representatives updates sexual harassment policy

AP: The proposed change would allow complainants to go outside the House organizational structure.

CB: It lacks an appeals process and requires secrecy even after cases are resolved.

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