MTPR

Montana Lawmakers Reach Deal On Harassment Policy

Feb 12, 2019

Lawmakers reached a tentative deal Tuesday on a policy to report and investigate harassment, discrimination and retaliation involving lawmakers and legislative employees.

A conference committee recommended lawmakers rejected a House proposal that the policy also apply to lobbyists, media and members of the public.

Republican Majority Leader Fred Thomas says the rules of the Legislature should be for lawmakers and legislative staff.

“I don’t think we would try to discipline a person of the media or a lobbyist. That’s up to their employer to do that.”

However, Democratic Sen. J.P. Pomnichowski says media and lobbyists should be covered by the policy drafted by the Legislative Council in an effort to create a respectful workplace.

“In my opinion, if we pull off these members then we are really subjecting ourselves to a standard that others are not expected to meet.”

The policy does say if lawmakers feel they've been harassed or discriminated against by someone other than a fellow lawmaker or legislative employee, they can report it to their own human resources office, which would help determine the appropriate place to lodge a complaint.

The policy, developed over 18 months amid sexual misconduct complaints made against lawmakers across the country as well as other powerful men as part of the #MeToo movement, creates a confidential process to report and investigate complaints.

Majority Leader Thomas recently told the Associated Press that a lawmaker filed a sexual harassment complaint against another lawmaker about a year ago.

The Legislative Legal Division is still evaluating what, if any, information about that complaint can be made public, according to the Associated Press.