Tennessee, Georgia taking steps to address sexual harassment

Tennessee, Georgia taking steps to address sexual harassment

January 22nd, 2018 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

The Tennessee State Capitol (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

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After back-to-back sexual harassment scandals cost two Tennessee state lawmakers their jobs, members of the state House and Senate are taking training to learn how to recognize and avoid offensive behavior.

House lawmakers took their training earlier this month, and senators will take theirs online soon, The Tennessean reported on Jan. 10.

Legislative administration director Connie Ridley told House members a policy they passed in 2016 covers everything from prohibiting sexual harassment to age, gender and race discrimination. She said anyone who knows about inappropriate conduct is required to report it, and anyone from lawmakers to lobbyists to staff members may file a complaint, according to The Tennessean.

This follows the resignation of Rep. Mark Lovell, who was forced out in February 2017 after less than 100 days for drinking too much and groping women at legislative events.

The Georgia State Capitol is located in downtown Atlanta.

The Georgia State Capitol is located in downtown...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

In September 2016, the House ousted Rep. Jeremy Durham during a special legislative session. Durham was accused of inappropriate conduct with at least 22 women, according to a Tennessean investigation.

In Georgia, a senator introduced a bill in December requiring mandatory sexual harassment training for lawmakers and department heads, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Senate Bill 313 also would expand the sexual harassment law to allow lobbyists and others to report inappropriate interactions with lawmakers to a legislative ethics committee, according to the AJC.

The bill would replace a 2010 rule prohibiting sexual harassment that required victims to hire a lawyer and file a civil suit against a lawmaker or state staff member who acted inappropriately.

In Alabama, the Decatur Daily reported in December that top Senate and House members didn't know about any sexual harassment complaints at the Capitol.

The state House passed a strict harassment policy in March of 2015 and the National Conference of State Legislatures later published the policy on its website as an example for other states to follow, the Decatur Daily reported.

Clerk of the House Jeff Woodard said he didn't know of any such complaints going back to 1991. Pat Harris, secretary of the Senate, said he'd heard of no formal complaints in more than 30 years in the Legislature, the paper reported.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

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