The senator, who chairs the Senate Health Care Committee, also suggested more frequent anti-harassment training for lawmakers and staff, and making the workplace policy more easily available to all.
OLYMPIA — Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, is calling on the Senate to make sure its harassment policy helps protect lobbyists and visitors to the Capitol.
In a letter Tuesday to the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee, Rivers said the chamber’s workplace policy should be amended to direct lobbyists and visitors to bring complaints to the Senate administration.
Her suggestions come as reports surfaced last week of sexual assault and harassment involving two ex-House members.
On Monday, more than 170 women signed a letter calling for a change in the state Legislature’s workplace culture to end sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.
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In reading the recent reports and the letter, and talking with women, Rivers wrote that “we need to focus more attention on the lobbying community and visitors to the Capitol.”
“It is clear to me that they do not feel like they can safely complain about bad behavior,” she wrote.
Rivers, who chairs the Senate Health Care Committee, also suggested more frequent training for lawmakers and staff, and making the workplace policy more easily available to all.
She cautioned against any changes to the policy that would “inadvertently make things more difficult for victims.”
In a message Tuesday to Democratic senators and staffers, Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, asked for input to help create a zero-tolerance culture for harassment.
“I hope staff will let me know, as well as other members/staff they trust, as to whom they would feel confident reporting incidents/concerns for themselves and others,” Nelson wrote in the message to staffers and Democratic senators.
Nelson said she has also reached out to women lobbyists for suggestions.
The House in January began a review of its own harassment policy — which was not sparked by any incident — that is expected to be completed soon.
Democratic leaders in the House have also created a work group within the caucus to address harassment.