New steps to combat & prevent harassment in Iowa Senate

Iowa Senate News Release
Senator Janet Petersen: (515) 281-3901
For Immediate Release: April 17, 2018  

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen 

“After footing the bill for a $1.75 million settlement in Kirsten Anderson’s lawsuit against Senate Republicans, Iowa taxpayers expected more leadership from Senate Republicans on the issue of harassment at the Iowa Capitol. The Iowa Senate received a black eye because of the Kirsten Anderson case, the findings of an ‘internal review’ and related media coverage.

“Senators are finally taking steps today to ensure the Iowa Senate will become a safe and healthy environment. Senate Democrats worked hard on these policy changes because we all have a legal, moral and business imperative to address this serious problem.

“While updated policies are important, we must remember that policies were in place years ago to protect Kirsten Anderson. The problem was that Senate Republican leaders and staff chose to ignore existing policies and procedures. To make matters worse, they fired Kirsten Anderson seven hours after she filed a harassment complaint, and the perpetrators and those who retaliated against her were allowed to stay in the Iowa Senate on the taxpayers’ dime.

“All Senators and staff have a high obligation to support and enforce these new policies, and to continue to strengthen the Senate’s harassment prevention policies and the Code of Ethics.  Otherwise, we are doing a disservice to Iowans.”

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Senate Democrats have reached agreement with Senate Republicans on strengthening to the Senate’s Harassment Prevention Policy and the Senate’s Code of Ethics.

Because of these changes, we will move ahead today with reforms that will ensure that:

  1. Victims of harassment will have a clear path to file complaints and have them investigated in a fair, impartial and confidential manner. This includes victims of sexual harassment and other forms of unlawful harassment (e.g., race, ethnicity, age, disability, gender identify, sexual orientation, etc.). Existing Senate policies in this area were inadequate, unclear and needed to be improved.
  2. Victims who step forward to file a complaint about harassment will be protected from retaliation or discrimination by anyone. The same protections will also be available for witnesses and others involved in any investigation. Existing Senate policies in this area were inadequate or non-existent.
  3. There will be a clear process for punishing any Senator, employee or anyone else who takes retaliatory action against someone who has filed a complaint. The same process will also protect witnesses and others involved in any investigation. Existing Senate policies were inadequate or non-existent in this area.
  4. There will be a clear process for disciplining any Senator, lobbyist, media employee or vendor who violates the anti-harassment policies. Existing Senate policies were inadequate or non-existent in this area.
  5. All Senators, staff, lobbyists and media will be required to attend training at least once every General Assembly regarding the Senate’s anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures. 
  6. The Senate Majority Leader, Senate President, Senate Minority Leader, Secretary of the Senate and other staff supervisors will be trained at least once every General Assembly on how to properly receive, investigate and, if warranted, to take corrective action. There was previously no requirement for this kind of training.