Perpetrators must pay for bad behavior – not Iowa taxpayers

Iowa Senate News Release
For Immediate Release: January 24, 2018


DES MOINES — A group of Senators introduced legislation today to ensure that state employees – not all Iowa taxpayers – would be financially responsible for egregious and illegal workplace behavior.

“Iowans are disgusted by the harassment, discrimination and retaliation against Kirsten Anderson and other legislative staff by some Republican Senators and staff members,” said Senator Tod Bowman of Maquoketa, the legislation’s main sponsor. “Most Iowans can’t believe they’re on the hook for $1.75 million because of the misconduct and mismanagement of some Republican Senators. Especially in a tight budget year, this money should be put towards our kids’ education, job training programs or mental health care. Taxpayers expect more from their leaders.”

The legislation is proposed in the wake of a jury decision last year to award $2.25 million to former Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson in a sexual harassment lawsuit she brought against Iowa Senate Republicans. Anderson was fired in May 2013, just seven hours after filing a complaint alleging a sexually hostile work environment. Subsequently, Anderson agreed to a reduced award of $1.75 million to avoid a lengthy appeal process.

Under current law, Iowa taxpayers must pay for such awards, and there’s no recourse for state officials to recoup that money from offending state employees.

The legislation introduced today – which is sponsored by all 20 Democratic State Senators and independent Senator David Johnson – would allow the plaintiff to receive an award from the state but would require the Iowa Attorney General to recover the amount of the award from offending state employees.

The legislation applies to state employment cases, which includes hostile work environment cases involving sexual harassment, race, religion, age or disability.

“This proposed legislation is part of the national conversation about preventing sexual harassment in the workplace,” Bowman said. “We must send a message to legislators and other state employees who harass their co-workers or subordinates that their conduct will not be tolerated and that they will be held responsible for their illegal behavior.”

“This legislation is another important step in our efforts to improve the workplace culture in the Iowa Senate and our commitment to making sure the Statehouse is a safe and healthy environment.”

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