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Report: Changes Needed to Prevent Harassment at Capitol

Lawmakers have been told the Oregon Legislature needs to make structural and cultural changes to ensure the Capitol building is free from harassment.

Posted: Dec 14, 2018 10:22 AM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Lawmakers have been told the Oregon Legislature needs to make structural and cultural changes to ensure the Capitol building is free from harassment.

Chief among the recommendations from the Oregon Law Commission's Oregon State Capitol Workplace Harassment work group is the creation and funding of an independent Equity Office that would conduct investigations into harassment complaints.

The Statesman Journal reports the panel presented its draft final report to legislative leaders on Thursday.

Legislative leaders thanked the chair of the work group, P.K. Runkles-Pearson, for the team's work and pledged further deliberation during the upcoming legislative session.

"We need help. And you've helped us. You've helped the Legislature and you've helped Oregon," said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.

That commitment comes as Bureau of Labor and Industries investigators continue to look into whether legislative leaders did enough to protect legislators, staff and interns from former Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, after allegations of sexual harassment became known.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian filed a complaint in August alleging they did not, and specifically named Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, as failing to take preventative action.

Last week, legislative leaders complied with a judge's order and turned over to investigators some 20,000 pages of documents related to sexual harassment complaints at the statehouse. They had initially refused a subpoena for those records.

Courtney and Kotek asked the Oregon Law Commission in April to look into the Legislature's policies and create this report.

On Thursday, Runkles-Pearson made it clear that culture and policy changes needed to be pursued in concert.

"In addition to adopting and implementing robust policies and training, eradicating workplace harassment from the State Capitol will require a daily commitment from you and your colleagues," Runkles-Pearson wrote in a letter attached to the report.

The report will be finalized next week.

The most significant recommendation is the creation of the Equity Office, an independent entity within the Legislature. The office would have at least two staff members — one responsible for conducting investigations and writing investigative reports, the other responsible for outreach and training.

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