Rep. Flood Pre-files Bill on ‘Defining Issue’ Facing Legislature: How to Stop Sexual Harassment in Its Own Ranks

State Representative Kelly Flood pre-filed a bill today to better protect state legislative employees from sexual harassment. The bill prohibits legislators from using taxpayer dollars to settle harassment complaints while assigning sexual-harassment oversight to the non-partisan, publicly-regarded Legislative Ethics Commission.

“This move would ensure that legislators are not policing ourselves,” the Lexington legislator said, “and that we have a timely, fair process for reporting and investigating sexual harassment on the job within our branch of government. We need to build a safer environment for all employees who work in and around the Kentucky General Assembly.”

The bill creates a tip line, sets up a defined 30-day complaint process, and requires annual public reporting on the number of harassment complaints and the actions taken toward resolution. This bill also denies the use of taxpayer dollars by legislators and other individuals to settle sexual-harassment complaints within the Legislative Branch.

“While the General Assembly has taken some positive steps when it comes to the reporting of and the response to sexual harassment, more needs to be done to restore public and employee confidence in the wake of several high-profile cases in recent years,” Rep. Flood said. “First, the bill defines sexual harassment, which is not yet codified in Kentucky’s ethics law. Second, the bill mitigates conflicts of interest, or self-policing, by using the non-partisan Legislative Ethics Commission. Third, the bill denies those guilty of sexual harassment in the Legislative Branch any settlement paid for by taxpayers.”

Rep. Flood said her bill is based on legislation sponsored by state Rep. Linda Belcher earlier this year, and another bill pre-filed in September by state Reps. Ken Fleming and Kimberly Poore Moser.

“Our legislative approach is similar in that each bill creates a tip-line that is staffed by the Legislative Ethics Commission, and both bills also offer guidelines on how to handle complaints once they are made,” Rep. Flood said. “However, my bill stays focused solely on sexual harassment, the defining issue facing our branch of government from a human resources standpoint. It also provides a blanket policy so that the process is identical for everyone. At a time when we do not have a permanent Legislative Research Commission director, I think that is especially important.

“I intend to create a safer workplace for all legislative employees this 2019 session,” she added, “because we need to get this right, right now. The public and our employees alike deserve to know that we legislators have their best interests at heart, and in the law.”

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