Hawaii House of Representatives updates workplace harassment policy

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House Speaker Scott K. Saiki announced Monday the completion of a new House Workplace Harassment Policy that includes sexual harassment.

The changes come after longtime state lawmaker Joe Souki was accused of sexual harassment. He denied the allegations, but resigned last March to “avoid a media circus.”

The new policy provides greater clarity of terms used to define harassment, expands reporting options, and extends protections to House members, staff, and the general public.

An advisory group recently completed an evaluation of the previous House Disruptive Behavior Policy and made recommendations relating to reporting, investigating, and eliminating inappropriate harassment behavior.

“This review has strengthened our harassment policy in several ways including enhanced clarity for registering complaints, accountability during the process, and personal protections,” said Saiki. “We just wanted to make sure that people who do business in the House also feel that it’s a safe environment for them. We don’t want to hear of allegations that people have been mistreated here when they come here for legitimate business purposes.”

The new policy must be approved by the House during the upcoming session and will be detailed in Chapter 27 in the House Administrative and Financial Manual.

Significant changes to the policy include:

  • Updates to definitions including examples of harassment, sexual harassment, and bullying to clearly identify the behavior.
  • Clarification of the reporting requirements and methods of reporting, the reporting obligation by victims and witnesses, and alternative options for recourse.
  • More information on the investigative process for relevant parties, including the requirement to provide the complainant with an estimated timeline for investigation completion.
  • Prohibition against retaliation and mandatory investigation of any reported reprisals.
  • Inclusion of members of the public in harassment policy protections.
  • Procedures for reporting complaints against the House Speaker.
  • Annual training for all House members and employees.

Click here to view the proposed policy.

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