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Mediation Up Next for Sexual Harassment at the Oregon Capitol

Friday, January, 18, 2019

Oregon’s workplace regulatory agency has opted for mediation instead of prosecuting the Legislature and other officials for not addressing sexual harassment accusations at the state Capitol.


The mediation will involve the Bureau of Labor and Industries, House Speaker Tina Kotek, Senate President Peter Courtney, and several other people named in the complaint that was filed in August. Mediation was requested by lawmakers. It will not completely remove the possibility of prosecution, but it could provide an easier resolution.


If mediation fails and prosecution occur, an administrative law judge would likely assess fines and other penalties against the Legislature. Fines could be part of the mediated settlement, but the penalties will likely be less harsh.


According to a report from the Bureau of Labor and Industries, there has been “substantial evidence of unlawful employment practices” at the Capitol. The report concluded that the reports of sexual harassment had been mishandled by lawmakers and administrators. They are accused of downplaying and ignoring the allegations that included inappropriate touching and sexually suggestive language.


The report further explained, “… top legislative officials had known about physical and verbal harassment at the Capitol for years and did little to stop it.”


There were additional accusations of “… lopsided power dynamic between veteran lawmakers and young staffers, some of whom were still in college or graduate school.”


The majority of allegations of abuse came from women lawmakers speaking out against the activity. There was also an in-house investigation by the Legislature. The report also revealed that Courtney’s former office manager was given an ultimatum to “resign or be fired or demoted” after Courtney learned of her dating a lawmaker.