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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandMarch 8, 20187min885
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann Thursday gave a strong “no” to Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham’s request for her to investigate sexual harassment claims in the General Assembly. In a letter obtained by Colorado Politics, McCann wrote that the state Constitution “gives the General Assembly authority to establish rules governing the conduct of its members,” […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 1, 20182min504

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is one of the 11 Senate Democrats calling on a federal agencies to ensure harassment has no place in the federal workplace.

They signed letters to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar citing recent complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about their respective agencies.

“We write to you with deep concern regarding harassment in the workplace and to obtain information on what you are doing to address the issue within your agency,” the letter states. “As you are well aware, workplace harassment is not a new issue that workers face; it is pervasive, systemic, and unacceptable.

“Recently, many brave women and men have spoken out to shed light on sexual harassment across the country. Women, in particular, have answered the call and their voices are leading the way in demanding change and equality—often taking great risk to speak out for the first time, and their voices are making a difference. As the head of a federal agency employing thousands of people, you can play a critical role in establishing and modeling safe work environments for all workers, and we hope you will do so.”

Last week Bennet and other Democrats sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee seeking a hearing on workplace harassment.

The Senate committee has oversight over the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the primary federal agency over enforcing laws against workplace discrimination, including harassment.


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Jessica MachettaDecember 17, 20173min324

Has Colorado taxpayer money ever been used to settle workplace harassment claims against the General Assembly? No. Could it? Probably not.

Director of the Office of Legislative Legal Services Sharon Eubanks, who is a lawyer, told legislators at a committee meeting that legislative counsel expenditures are looked at by the comptroller and approved before they are entered into the state system, and there’s also an annual audit of all money spent.

“In terms of these monies, whether they could be used as monetary settlements — threatened or actual harassment claims — there are a couple of different options,” Eubanks said.

There could be a monetary settlement of a pending action against the General Assembly or an individual lawmaker, she said, depending on Legal Services or if they’ve retained counsel.

“And just because Legal Services has retained counsel to pay for legal expenses, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s an agreement,” Eubanks said. “There would need to be approval.”

Legal Services does have an amount for legal fees, she said, but “to date, there have been no actions involving workplace harassment, that we could find, and no settlements made.”

If it’s found the legislature’s harassment policy has been violated and disciplinary action is taken, that person has no authority to make monetary settlements using public funds and also does not have access to those funds, Eubanks said.

“That person, whether in the House or the Senate, may try to submit something to the chief clerk or to the secretary of the Senate,” she said, “and you can imagine what public reaction might be.”

The discussion comes after it was reported recently that members of Congress legally tapped taxpayer money to settle harassment claims. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Yuma, last week signed onto a bill that would prevent prevent that.

The Executive Committee of the Legislative Council voted Friday to work with the Office of Legislative Legal Services to hire an independent human resources professional that would act as a gate-keeper in handling all complains of workplace harassment.


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Jessica MachettaDecember 14, 20173min669

Lawmakers will meet Dec. 15 at the statehouse to discuss hiring an independent consultant that would manage complaints of sexual harassment in the Capitol.

Formal complaints are currently filed with House or Senate leadership, and though the process ensures confidentiality, some have said concerns about pushback have made them stay silent.

“We have a current reporting system and we have a zero-tolerance policy for such things,” Senate President Kevin Grantham said when complaints first surfaced in November, “but we’re going to have someone come in and see where the holes are, where we can fill the gaps, review and possibly overhaul the way we do things to make it a better system.”

That review will look at best practices, including record keeping, protections against retribution, online reporting, and safeguards to allow patterns of harassment to be detected and handled appropriately.

“This is about working together to address what clearly is a problem,” House Speaker Crisanta Duran said. “I am glad that all four caucuses have agreed to set up a comprehensive review of our harassment policies, and I hope that through this process we can create a welcoming and respectful workplace for everyone.”

The Executive Committee of the Legislative Council includes Grantham, Duran, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, House Majority Leader KC Becker, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville.

According to the agenda, the committee will consider hiring a human resources professional. It will also review review the legislature’s existing workplace harassment policy and discuss whether more workplace harassment training is needed for lawmakers and legislative staff.

Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, set off a firestorm when she filed a formal complaint against Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, with Duran’s office alleging Lebsock made sexually crude remarks to her at a gathering at a bar at the end of the 2016 legislative session. KUNC’s Bente Birkland reported that former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner also accuse Lebsock of behaving inappropriately.

Reps. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, Randy Baumgardner, R-Breckenridge, and Jack Tate, R-Centennial, have also been accused of sexual harassment.

All four lawmakers have denied any wrongdoing.


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Colorado PoliticsColorado PoliticsNovember 21, 20174min607

House and Senate leadership will meet to review of how workplace harassment issues are handled in the General Assembly, according to a Tuesday press release. The meeting is in direct response to allegations of workplace harassment involving four Colorado legislators.

The Executive Committee of the Legislative Council is hiring an independent consultant to review the legislature’s existing procedures regarding workplace harassment and issue recommendations to the legislature, as well as to determine the review’s scope and timeline.

The review will research the matter and seek input from those involved, and will then hold a hearing on the recommendations and proposed rule changes.

The review will also look at:

· A best-practices survey of workplace harassment policies in other states and the private sector.

· Whether an independent body or other neutral third-party organization should be established to handle workplace harassment complaints, and potential models to consider.

· Suitable methods for reporting complaints, including online reporting options.

· How confidentiality should be handled in workplace harassment or sexual harassment complaints.

· Suitable remedies for complaints of workplace harassment.

· Record keeping.

· Protections against retribution.

· Proper safeguards to allow patterns of harassment to be clearly detected and handled appropriately.

· Best practices for awareness and training on what constitutes workplace harassment and the procedure for filing a complaint under the policy.

 

Research and input will be gathered from a wide range of sources, including the Office of Legislative Legal Services, Legislative Council, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the state Department of Personnel and Administration, the state attorney general’s office, human resources and employment law experts, victims’ advocacy groups, legislators, employees and others who do business at the legislature.

Legislative leaders have agreed to discuss formalizing proposals for workplace harassment training to be conducted annually for all legislators and staff and to be expanded to offer the most comprehensive training available. Currently, workplace harassment training is held every two years and is mandatory for all legislators and all new staffers.

The Executive Committee of the Legislative Council includes Senate President Kevin Grantham, House Speaker Crisanta Duran, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, House Majority Leader KC Becker, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. The date and time of the Executive Committee meeting will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.

Four state lawmakers face allegations of sexual harassment: Rep. Steve Lebsock, Rep. Paul Rosenthal, Sen. Randy Baumgardner and Sen. Jack Tate. All of them have denied any wrongdoing.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran issued a statement saying, “This is not a partisan issue; this is about working together to address what clearly is a problem.

“I am glad that all four caucuses have agreed to set up a comprehensive review of our harassment policies, and I hope that through this process we can create a welcoming and respectful workplace for everyone.”