SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Calif. Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), chair of the Joint Committee on Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response, and Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), vice chair of the subcommittee, today released draft recommendations to overhaul the Legislature’s policies on sexual harassment and to transform the workplace culture.

California State Assembly
“The subcommittee has based our recommendations on the extensive testimony we heard over the course of five hearings, with the goal of developing policies that overhaul the Legislature’s workplace culture to promote respect, civility, and diversity,” said Assemblymember Friedman. “We will be consulting with members, staff and the broader Capitol community in the coming weeks to fine-tune this proposal in hopes of adopting a final policy prior to the start of summer recess.”

The proposed policies are modeled on the personnel policies of the County of Los Angeles, whose county counsel testified about its “Equity Oversight Program” at the subcommittee’s February 26 hearing (PDF LINK).

The draft recommendations have several key goals:

  1. Transform workplace culture
  • Adopt a “Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct” that lays out a clear aspirational policy that judges actions based on whether they promote respect, civility, and diversity.
  • Inappropriate conduct toward others is unacceptable and all reports of such conduct will be addressed in order to improve the workplace.
  • Implement a comprehensive, engaging training program, including implicit bias and bystander training that provides staff with the tools to recognize and prevent inappropriate conduct when they see it.
  • Take action to protect and support victims, such as continuing to contract with WEAVE for confidential, voluntary pre-reporting counseling.
  1. Address problems early
  • Establish an independent workplace conduct unit within the Legislative Counsel’s office that would serve as the bicameral and independent body charged with providing reporting, assessment, investigation and independent determination of reports about claims of inappropriate conduct.
    • In order to address problems early, the responses to reports of less severe behavior may not necessarily be disciplinary and may start with mediation, additional training, or informal counseling in order to help everyone understand how to help build a workplace culture of respect, civility and diversity.
    • While the workplace conduct unit would lead most investigations, external investigators may be retained for investigations related to legislators and senior staff.
  • Make reporting as straightforward and accessible as possible, including accepting anonymous reports and consideration of online apps for reporting.
  • Encourage supervisors to report any incident of inappropriate conduct they see or learn about.
  1. Create an independent panel to adjudicate facts and recommend responses
  • Appoint a panel of subject-matter experts to make factual determinations (substantiated or unsubstantiated) and recommendations to the relevant house for appropriate response.
  • Each house would determine how to respond to panel recommendations.
  1. Maintain confidentiality and disclosure
  • The Legislature will protect confidentiality of reports, investigations, and determinations of inappropriate conduct.
  • The Legislature will maintain its policy of releasing documents related to sexual harassment claims that have been substantiated against a high-level legislative employee or legislator for which discipline has been imposed or allegations have been determined to be well-founded.

Tentative timeline for next steps:

  • Monday, June 18, 9:30am: Subcommittee hearing to hear results of workplace climate survey; begin discussion on draft recommendations.
  • Thursday, June 21, 10:30am: Subcommittee hearing to further refine and adopt draft recommendations based on results of workplace climate survey and feedback from subcommittee members, staff, and Capitol community.
  • Monday, June 25, 11:00am: Meeting of full Joint Committee on Rules to consider and adopt a new policy.

What They’re Saying:

Samantha Corbin, co-founder, WeSaidEnough:

“WeSaidEnough stands with victims and survivors in appreciation of the thoughtful work of the California Legislature’s subcommittee to find solutions that promote equity, safety and healthy cultures in the workplace. We look forward to seeing the climate surveys, policy recommendations, and implementation of plans to advance respect and equity for all.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis:

“The County Equity Oversight Panel (CEOP) is a state-of-the-art equity model that mandates the investigation of all complaints and places an affirmative duty on supervisors and managers to report. The CEOP model has significantly and positively improved the County’s workplace culture. By supporting complaints of inappropriate conduct, the CEOP model reinforces the County’s inclusive and safe culture. As a former State Assemblymember and State Senator, I am pleased that our representatives in Sacramento are using LA County as a model for implementing effective and much-needed culture change.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl:

“LA County adopted our County Equity Oversight Panel (CEOP) Process in 2011 in order to establish a state of the art equity model that mandates the investigation of all complaints of inappropriate behavior based on protected classes and places an affirmative duty on Supervisors to Report. This model has significantly and positively impacted workplace culture across the entire County. When employees know how seriously we take their complaints and that they will be independently investigated, they feel more fairly treated and more confident in the equity of their daily workplace.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) released the following statement after the Joint Committee on Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response released draft recommendations to overhaul the Legislature’s policies on sexual harassment and to transform the workplace culture:

“The subcommittee’s draft recommendations are a vital next step in achieving the goal we all want – a bicameral, bipartisan approach that prevents sexual harassment and abuse and changes the culture of the Capitol. These recommendations are the result of hours of thoughtful testimony by witnesses and much hard work by the subcommittee. As these recommendations are reviewed and finalized, the leadership of the Assembly will work with the Capitol community to make sure everyone is behind the change that absolutely needs to happen.”