Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on the results of a long-awaited investigative report into the overall culture of the Colorado General Assembly with regard to sexual harassment in the workplace–and as women have been pleading with anyone who would listen since at least last fall, it’s a real problem:
In the report publicly released Thursday, which was provided to lawmakers earlier this week, the investigators note 10 problems involving the General Assembly’s current policies and offer a series of possible solutions, which lawmakers will have to vote to adopt before the end of this year’s session on May 9. Some of the lawmakers were skeptical Thursday they could get the new policy done by that date.
It says that “almost everyone” surveyed felt “safe” or “comfortable” working at the Capitol, though 30 percent of respondents told investigators they’d either seen or experienced harassment themselves. Only a small percentage reported the harassment, they told the investigators.
And about half of people the team interviewed said they’d seen sexist or “seriously disrespectful” behavior among people working at the Capitol.
The report says most of the people who didn’t report behavior they’d witnessed said they didn’t do so because they feared reprisal.
CBS Denver adds:
The report says retaliation is a real concern that’s not being adequately addressed. Surveyors say the need for anonymous reporting was brought up by several employees. [Pols emphasis]
Investigations Law Group recommends a Standing Workplace Culture Committee for each chamber. That committee would receive the results of investigations and be responsible for disciplinary action.
The issue of retaliation against accusers was a major factor in the lopsided vote in favor of expelling Rep. Steve Lebsock from the House. In addition to publicly smearing his accusers on a personal level, Lebsock infamously promised to take others “down with me”–a threat that prompted at least two lawmakers to start wearing bulletproof vests at the Capitol.
Unfortunately, Rep. Lebsock is not the only case of retaliation against accusers since the harassment scandal broke last fall. The defense of Sen. Jack Tate, against whom an allegation of harassment was found credible by outside investigators, began with lobbyists rushing to the media to discredit the allegations by claiming said behavior was just an example of Tate’s “southern manners.” When that backfired, a Republican legislative aide went to a different reporter at the same conservative outlet to disparage the accuser’s “personal indiscretions,” a form of retaliation known as “slut shaming” or “victim blaming.”
When we talk about a workplace culture that facilitates sexual harassment, the two principal ingredients necessary are men with power willing to exploit it for sex, and a lack of safeguards to respect and protect victims who come forward. The former has been amply demonstrated by the credible allegations of harassment that have been leveled against numerous lawmakers. The latter is evident in the horrible treatment victims have endured at the hands of Republican leaders and staff–willingly assisted by bad actors in the local press.
In 2018, the General Assembly has taken the first steps toward acknowledging and confronting a problem that has plagued the institution–and American society writ large–for longer than any of us have been alive. In doing so, theye have only just begun to reckon with the extent of the problem, so deeply entrenched that rooting it out is uncovering some truly vile beliefs and values among civic leaders with substantial power and influence. In the Colorado Senate, Republican Senate leadership has stopped the drive for accountability in its tracks, and transformed what should have been a nonpartisan appeal to decency into a partisan food fight. Assuming the November elections result in sweeping Democratic victories as is generally forecast today, Senate President Kevin Grantham’s refusal to hold his caucus accountable for sexual harassment will be remembered as another nail in the coffin of the GOP Senate’s one-seat majority.
And in 2019, a new conversation will begin.