The NCSL Blog

19

By Kevin Frazzini

The #MeToo movement continues to affirm the hard truth of sexual harassment: It’s everywhere.

McDonald's harassment protestorThe fast-food industry is just the latest to face scrutiny. Some McDonald’s workers staged a one-day strike Sept. 18 at restaurants in 10 cities across the country to pressure the burger giant to do more to protect them against workplace sexual harassment.

Forty percent of female fast-food workers said they’ve been sexually harassed on the job, according to the survey firm Hart Research Associates.

Entertainment, journalism, Congress—no workplace is immune, including state legislatures, with at least 76 state lawmakers having faced public allegations or repercussions over sexual misconduct claims since the start of last year, according to the Associated Press.

But, driven in part by constituents, lawmakers have responded forcefully. “They have created an unprecedented amount of legislation—more than 125 bills across the country—to examine and improve the culture in their statehouses,” since the beginning of the year, writes NCSL’s Jon Griffin in "Halting Harassment" in the current issue of State Legislatures magazine. “Thirteen states have set up committees to examine sexual harassment issues.”

Every legislature has approached the issue in its own way, reflecting its unique priorities and culture. A few examples:

  • Maryland now requires the use of an independent investigator for all complaints against legislators, unless the victim objects.
  • Washington has created a state Women’s Commission to work with the legislature and state agencies to assess programs that affect women, including harassment policies.
  • Maine requires all legislators, staff and lobbyists to attend training at the beginning of every legislative session.
  • Illinois mandates training for lobbyists as a part of its Lobbyist Registration Act.

Brandeis University professor Anita Hill reminds us that harassment is as much an issue today as it was when she testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. “Sexual violence is a social reality to which elected representatives must respond,” she wrote Sept. 18 in The New York Times.

Read Griffin’s full story here to learn more about how state lawmakers are defining harassment and what they’re doing to prevent it.

Kevin Frazzini is the assistant editor of NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.