Baker: Zero tolerance for sexual harassment in Massachusetts

October 30, 2017

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker reached out to state employees Monday, telling them he was deeply disturbed to hear allegations of sexual harassment on Beacon Hill and offering help to women who have been victims.

“First of all, there is a zero tolerance policy in place throughout the Executive Branch concerning sexual harassment of any kind,” Baker wrote in an email to the state’s workforce. “Zero.”

The Republican governor, who generally reserves such governmentwide emails to tout accomplishments of his administration, reminded employees that the state’s human resources office has online training materials about sexual harassment and other workplace issues and suggested workers take a “refresher” course if needed.

Every state agency has at least one officer assigned to assist workers who want to report an incident of sexual harassment, he wrote.

Also Monday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg said each had dealt with a handful of sexual harassment complaints during their respective tenures as legislative leaders.

“We’ve had two reports in three years. Both of those reports we handled in accordance with policy and to the satisfaction of the person who had been accosted,” said Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat.

DeLeo said the House also received some complaints during the Winthrop Democrat’s more than eight years as speaker. He said all were handled immediately and with “proper attention.”

Citing privacy rules, neither DeLeo nor Rosenberg would give details about the complaints or say whether they had been lodged against legislators or staffers.

The House on Friday approved an order calling for a review of the chamber’s sexual harassment policies and a recommendation on whether they need to be strengthened.

DeLeo said he was “infuriated” by a report in The Boston Globe in which a dozen women described alleged harassment in recent years. None of the women, or the men they accused, was identified by name.

Revelations of sexual harassment have emerged in several statehouses around the country in the weeks since allegations were made public against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Following his regular Monday meeting with legislative leaders, Baker said the state’s current policies and procedures for investigating sexual harassment are “solid,” but added that women must be made to feel comfortable reporting any concerns they have without fear of retaliation.

Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, of Pittsfield, and Lori Ehrlich, of Marblehead, Democrats who co-chair the Women’s Caucus Sexual Assault Working Group, praised DeLeo and Rosenberg for taking a “strong stand” on sexual harassment but suggested more needs to be done.

The lawmakers proposed several steps, including mandatory sexual harassment awareness training for all state employees and an anonymous Statehouse survey designed to better gauge the scope of the problem.

“In the male-dominated field of politics, it is especially important that everyone feels safe from harassment and inappropriate use of power,” Farley-Bouvier and Ehrlich wrote.

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