Arizona House issues written policy on sexual harassment
PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona House has issued a written harassment policy, less than two weeks after a state lawmaker went public about the sexual harassment she experienced from male colleagues during her early legislative career.
Under the new policy, a House member experiencing harassment can report it the chamber’s attorneys or the majority and minority party chiefs of staff.
An investigative team will then interview the person accused and the person who filed the complaint. Party leadership will determine action after the investigative report is compiled.
Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard sent the policy, which defines harassment and outlines steps for reporting allegations, to the chamber’s representatives and staffers on Monday, The Arizona Republic reported .
Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita posted on Facebook last month that she encountered harassment not long after taking office in early 2011.
“Almost immediately upon my arrival to the Capitol, I experienced unwanted sexual advances and lewd and suggestive comments regarding my body and appearance from male colleagues,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, what I thought would be a professional and respectful work environment was not the reality I was experiencing.”
Ugenti-Rita has declined to name the colleagues or further describe the harassment. She said she contacted House leaders at the time but there was not much they could do.
Amid the national discussion of sexual harassment, Ugenti-Rita said she decided to share her experience in hopes of encouraging others to help address sexual and workplace harassment.
Matt Specht, a spokesman for the House Republican caucus, said the chamber did not have a written policy previously.
The state Senate created a policy on sexual harassment in 2005, but chamber members said that policy hasn’t been circulated recently.
Ugenti-Rita said the policy won’t be effective until both chambers of the Legislature adopt the same process.
“I don’t see the logic in separating the chambers,” she said. “You’d think that you’d want to participate collaboratively with the other chamber, so there’s consistency in dealing with this very serious issue.”
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com