Legislature's Sexual Harassment Policy Still a Work in Progress

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Legislature's Sexual Harassment Policy Still a Work in Progress

Leaders approved general outline last year, but work just beginning on adding specifics

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Legislators are still piecing together a sexual harassment policy for the General Assembly.

Legislative leaders approved the outline of a policy last fall, but left it to the House and Senate Ethics Committees to fill in the details. Those committees started that process behind closed doors for what House Ethics Chair Sharon Negele (R-Attica) describes as an informational meeting.

Six of the 12 members, including Negele, are new to the ethics panels, and only three are attorneys. Negele says the two-hour session was a necessary step to get everyone up to speed on the legal terms and definitions involved in employment law, and on the hazards legislators will have to navigate in crafting a policy. She says a still-unscheduled public session will follow.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says he's hopeful a policy can be finalized by the end of this week, but says that may be too tight a timeline.

Legislators have hired Indianapolis employment attorney Susan Zoeller to advise them during the process. Negele and Vice Chair Sue Errington (D-Muncie) say one early guideline is to keep the definition of unacceptable conduct broad, to avoid situations in which misbehavior doesn't fit neatly into what the law spells out.

Negele says legislators may specifically address legislative internships and the setting of acceptable boundaries in legislators' interactions with interns.

Governor Holcomb and Chief Justice Loretta Rush announced sexual-harassment policies for the executive and judicial branches last March.

Negele says the House Ethics panel will separately review a misconduct complaint lodged against Bosma last fall, but hasn't determined when. Former Minority Whip Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) questioned Bosma's use of campaign funds to hire an attorney to push back on a former intern's claim of a sexual encounter 25 years ago.

(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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