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Government shutdown delays harassment training in Oregon

January 15, 2019
A notice on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, in the Oregon state Capitol in Salem says training by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on workplace harassment has been cancelled. The partial federal government shutdown forced the cancellation of the sessions for Oregon lawmakers, just as lawmakers are grappling with sexual harassment and days before the Legislature convenes. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The partial federal government shutdown reached the Oregon State Capitol on Tuesday, when training by a federal agency for lawmakers on workplace harassment prevention was canceled.

The cancellation happened as the state Capitol is grappling with sexual harassment. An investigation by the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, released on Jan. 3, concluded that top lawmakers haven’t done enough to stop it.

Lawmakers learned about the training on Monday, just a day before the first scheduled session by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A printed notice at a Capitol hearing room announced the cancellation. Notices also went out to lawmakers, who gathered in Salem this week to be sworn in and to undergo training.

“I’m very demoralized that the federal government wasn’t able to come together and re-open the government,” state Senate President Peter Courtney told a reporter in an email. “As soon as the federal government is back up and running we will reschedule this training.”

An EEOC website says its training is geared to “focus on respect, acceptable workplace conduct, and the types of behaviors that contribute to a respectful and inclusive workplace.”

Rescheduling will disrupt the 2019 session, which begins Jan. 22, but legislative leaders say it’s a priority.

“We will cancel committees, we will cancel floor session, we have to get this done,” Courtney said.

Emphasizing what she sees as unequal treatment, Rep. Tina Kotek told fellow lawmakers after she was re-elected House speaker on Monday that they must work to end “the problem of poor capitol culture.”

Sen. Jeff Kruse resigned last year after an independent investigation concluded he had inappropriately touched or talked to women, including at least two female senators and two interns.

Kruse told investigators his behavior was “instinctual” and hard to change. He later proclaimed his innocence when he announced his resignation.

Sen. Sara Gelser, one of those senators, tweeted: “Irony is when the Oregon Legislature’s new and improved workplace harassment training is canceled because of the Trump federal government shut down.”

More than a dozen women have accused President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, which he denies. In the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, Trump boasted of grabbing women by their genitals and kissing them without permission. Trump dismissed his comments as “locker-room talk.”

The state labor bureau will pursue mediation over a civil rights complaint against the state Legislature for being lax in stemming sexual harassment. It will be overseen by a neutral mediator.

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Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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