Legislative Council adopts new sexual harassment policy

Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, left, chairs a Legislative Council meeting on April 23, 2018. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka sits to his left. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, left, chairs a Legislative Council meeting on Monday. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, sits to his left. The council adopted a new sexual and other workplace harassment policy, as well as a professional workplace conduct policy. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The state’s Legislative Council adopted an updated sexual and other workplace harassment policy. The committee unanimously adopted the policy on Monday.

The new, six-page sexual harassment policy includes a more thorough definition of harassment than the 18-year-old, one-page policy. It also provides more details on how to report harassment. It sets out a timeline for investigations of harassment. And it allows for independent investigations of alleged harassment by legislators.

The council adopted a separate professional workplace conduct policy. It prohibits a variety of behavior. The policy bars legislators or supervisors from having consensual sex with their employees. It bars conduct that creates an “offensive workplace.” It also prohibits disruptive behavior, including “waving hands, arms or fists.”

Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman said he’s concerned the workplace conduct policy could prevent lawmakers from asking hard questions.

“There are a lot of things that are subjective that this policy touches on,” he said.

Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon said the policy is an improvement. Until now, the Legislature hasn’t had a policy on conduct separate from the harassment policy.

“There were opportunities for clarity for both staff and legislators in understand what is a safe and professional workplace environment,” she said.

The Legislature decided to revisit the harassment policy last year. Legislators cited concerns about harassment both inside the Capitol and nationally in seeking the review. Democratic Rep. Dean Westlake of Kiana resigned in December due to sexual harassment allegations. And Democratic Rep. Zach Fansler of Bethel resigned in February after a woman alleged he attacked her.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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