Nebraska Legislature updates harassment policy, will publish names of those who take training

September 8, 2018

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Legislature’s workplace harassment policy was amended Friday in an attempt to make more senators and staff undergo training to prevent incidents of sexual harassment or abuse.

Under the amended policy, training on the subject of workplace harassment will be offered every two years, and the names of senators and staff who undergo the training will be published in the Legislative Journal. Publishing the names was portrayed as an effort to highlight who had, and hadn’t, taken the training courses.

The amendment to the 26-year-old policy also extended the definition of sexual harassment to include “electronic/social media contact” and will require senators to report allegations against lobbyists, as well as other third parties.

“I don’t know that it’s perfect, but it’s better than (what) we have now,” said State Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk, the speaker of the Legislature.

The amendments were adopted by the Legislature’s Executive Board at a meeting Friday.

Only one senator raised objections. Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill abstained from voting on the amendments, saying it was wrong to “shame” senators for not taking the training.

The Nebraska Legislature is one of many state legislatures across the nation that have reviewed their policies in light of the accusations of sexual harassment or assault against media figures like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer and politicians such as former U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

In January, The World-Herald looked at whether such harassment occurs at the State Legislature. While officials would not provide specifics, interviews with staffers and senators found that at least one investigation against a state senator had been launched during the 1990s and that a handful of other complaints about suggestive comments, unwanted sexual advances and harassment had been handled informally, by talking to an accused senator or staff member.

The case in the ’90s was dropped at the alleged victim’s request after the accused senator lost a re-election bid.

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