HARRISBURG, Dec. 22 – State Reps. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, Chris Rabb, Brian Sims and Jared Solomon, all D-Phila., today issued the following statement and call for action in the wake of sexual harassment allegations in the Pennsylvania legislature.
“The recent reports and allegations emanating from Harrisburg are deeply troubling. For too long, stories of inappropriate behavior have been kept hush-hush, universally acknowledged but rarely acted upon,” the lawmakers wrote to legislative leaders.
“It is simply insulting to the character of our Commonwealth that women have to whisper warnings to each other about which legislators they should avoid. In addition, the level of professional harm that far too many women have endured is incalculable. It is vital that we as male legislators reflect on our role in either perpetuating this culture in Harrisburg or analyze our as yet unsuccessful efforts to end it.
“It seems rather basic. If you grope someone, you are unfit for office. If you expose yourself to someone, you are unfit for office. If you condition employment or in any way use your office to intimidate or coerce someone into doing something inappropriate, if you are more interested in how a woman looks rather than her skills for the job, you are unfit for office. And, to no less of a degree, if you are silent when such incidents of discrimination and assault occur in front of you, then you are unfit for office. None of these personal failures should entitle legislators to publicly funded settlement bailouts.
“To our colleagues and staff, we promise a renewed effort to promote and foster equality and respect in every Capitol office, hallway, and corner. We promise to offer no safe harbor and to not casually dismiss a red flag. We promise to work harder to create a better environment where every staffer, member, and intern feels safe and respected at work, and we are committed to developing a better reporting system for when things go wrong. In an institution where women are still underrepresented, we promise to be part of the solution not part of the problem.
“In addition we are calling for three immediate changes:
(1) We understand that all four caucuses have received numerous right to know requests regarding sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. We call upon Democrat and Republican leadership alike to expedite their review and to release all information to the public ahead of schedule. This should include the number of complaints filed over the last ten years, the extent of their investigation, what if any remedial action was taken, and concise settlement or trial awards that were paid out to victims and their attorneys. Leadership must also provide the details of how each award was paid for and the total cost incurred in representing the caucus or the accused in the matter. This is taxpayer money, and citizens have a right to know how pervasive this problem is and how much it takes away from resources that should be spent on bettering the lives of Pennsylvanians.
(2) We are also aware of pending co-sponsorship memoranda in the House and Senate that will likely lead to larger, more substantial progress on this issue. We call upon the majority leaders to promise their immediate consideration upon their introduction. These bills should be the first bills discussed in 2018.
(3) Every employee of the General Assembly must have a consistent, clear, and fair avenue to report such claims and to have them properly addressed regardless of which caucus they work for. We call upon our all Leadership to rectify any shortfall in this process immediately and to make this process public.
“Efforts to mandate additional training, to provide superior support for victims, and to bring much-needed transparency are good first steps, but we must do more – a real commitment to changing our culture must be made.”
Original link: http://pahouse.com/Miller/InTheNews/NewsRelease/?id=96022