Report Unearths Sexual Harassment Concerns In The General Assembly

Report Unearths Sexual Harassment Concerns In The General Assembly

4:30pm Dec 14, 2017
The North Carolina House chamber. (Credit: Jeff Tiberii/WUNC)

As the drumbeat of sexual harassment allegations against politicians continues across the country, reporters in North Carolina are investigating the behavior of those in the statehouse.

Lauren Horsch with NC Insider published a story this week outlining harassment accusations against a handful of unnamed state legislators and lobbyists.

She told WFDD’s Sean Bueter that while sexual harassment is very real in Raleigh politics, things are slowly improving.

Interview Highlights

On how big the sexual harassment problem is at the statehouse:

[It] isn't incredibly widespread. But the lawmakers who are harassing women – staffers, lobbyists, journalists – there's about maybe eight or 10 of them that are doing it frequently enough to where it makes some women uncomfortable. And I mean, it's not just the lawmakers that are doing it but also male lobbyists harassing other female lobbyists. So, I mean it is prevalent but it's not as crazy as a lot of people thought it was going to be. But it is there and it is of quite some concern for staff members and other women around the General Assembly every day.

On the possible recourse for people harassed while working at the General Assembly:

It's a four-step process and it's very lengthy. It can take up to 100 days just to go from reporting it to a supervisor to there being a resolution of some kind. And we don't know what that resolution could be. It could be anything from a reprimand to someone getting fired. So that could be 100 days. But even just for House or Senate staff, that process is still, I do believe, over 60 days.

Also they can report it to the Legislative Ethics Committee which is a group of Republican and Democrat lawmakers. It's evenly split, so it's a bipartisan board. They have investigatory power. They can go ahead and investigate any harassment that is reported to them and they also investigate other things, other ethical violations. But that can take a long time too. Sometimes less than 100 days but sometimes more than 100 days. And there haven't been a lot of ethics complaints that have been brought forward to that committee. I don't know the reason why but I can guess it's because you have to sign your name to it and you can't do it anonymously. And a lot of women want to report these things anonymously because they're fearful.

On the improving environment and the persistance of the problem:

Especially in the General Assembly, women do say it's gotten better because the ethics rules have changed over decades. In previous decades, you had lobbyists that were able to take out lawmakers to dinner or for drinks, and that really gave them an opportunity to put themselves in unsafe situations where they could be harassed in any way, shape or form. So that has changed a lot. And I mean I've heard that from lawmakers and lobbyists that just over the past decade it has gotten better but it still persists.

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