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ND lawmakers finalize new anti-harassment policy

North Dakota House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, gestures during a committee meeting at the state Capitol in Bismarck Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. John Hageman / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers finalized a policy against workplace harassment in the Legislature Thursday, Sept. 13, months after they called for a more formalized approach for reporting incidents amid the #MeToo movement.

The Legislative Procedure and Arrangements Committee voted unanimously to update the policy, which applies to lawmakers, legislative employees and third parties such as members of the media and lobbyists. Its definition of workplace harassment includes sexual harassment and harassment based on race, religion, age and other factors.

The policy also prohibits retaliating against someone for complaining about workplace harassment or participating in an investigation.

"I think the key ingredient is it will not be tolerated," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, adding that victims will now know how to seek help.

House Minority Leader Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, echoed Carlson's sentiment and called the document a "good policy."

Under the policy, House and Senate leaders from both parties or their designees receive complaints. They would refer it to a five-member review panel to investigate the claims or forward the complaint to an independent investigator.

Penalties range from apologies to having the violation referred for criminal prosecution. Lawmakers could be removed from leadership posts, publicly admonished or expelled from the Legislature, among other penalties, and third parties could have their violations referred to their employers for discipline.

The policy requires legislative staffers to conduct mandatory training on workplace harassment for lawmakers and legislative employees.

The committee said late last year it wanted an updated harassment policy amid a wave of sexual misconduct accusations against powerful figures. The previous two-paragraph policy says sexual harassment won't be tolerated but didn't include a detailed reporting process.

Carlson previously said he wasn't aware of harassment allegations in the North Dakota Legislature, but Democratic state Rep. Kathy Hogan said she knew of several instances where women were made "uncomfortable."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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