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State House OKs measure on sexual harassment task force

January 19, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state House on Thursday passed a resolution setting up a legislative task force on sexual harassment.

House Concurrent Resolution 4413 was passed on a voice vote and heads to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it at a later date.

Under the measure, the task force will include eight lawmakers representing the four political caucuses, four lobbyists and a representative from the offices of the secretary of the Senate and the chief clerk of the House.

The group will review and make recommendations regarding cultural changes in the legislative community, including adopting a code of conduct, as well as education and training on preventing sexual harassment.

Recommendations are due to the Senate’s Facilities and Operations Committee and the House’s Executive Rules Committee by Dec. 11.

“This is about our workplace and what we need to do here,” said Democratic Rep. Laurie Jinkins. “It’s very hard for us to exercise leadership anywhere else unless we exercise it here.”

Leaders in the House and Senate have been reviewing policies and procedures on how best to move forward on addressing sexual harassment, training and reporting procedures following a series of stories and allegations that have arisen out of the Washington Capitol in recent months.

More than 200 women — including lobbyists and lawmakers — signed a letter in November calling for a culture change at the Capitol. The signers, who included more than 40 lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle, say that as “women serving and working in the legislative and political realm, we add our voices to the chorus of ‘enough.’”

Republican Rep. Melanie Stambaugh said the resolution provides an opportunity for lawmakers and lobbyists and others to work on a “comprehensive approach to protecting and empowering individuals who work here in the state Capitol.”

In addition to the resolution, lawmakers will also address several bills related to sexual harassment. A Senate committee has a public hearing scheduled for next Wednesday to hear bills on the issue, including one that would prohibit nondisclosure agreements in the workplace from binding people from disclosing incidents of sexual harassment or assault.