There were 11 sexual harassment complaints filed against a member of the Maryland General Assembly last year, according to a report released Thursday, but it's unclear how many lawmakers were the target of complaints because they are unnamed and the report only lists a total number of complaints.
The Department of Legislative Services released the report to a panel of lawmakers that sets policy for the General Assembly. The Legislative Policy Committee decided last year to compile an annual report and make it public, after a wave of allegations against prominent political, entertainment and media figures, as well as sexual misconduct concerns in statehouses around the country. It's the first report of its kind in Maryland.
"There could have been multiple complaints against the same legislator," said Lori Mathis, director of the department's Office of Operations and Support Services.
A total of 17 discrimination complaints were made against legislators from last December to November, with five of them based on a complainant unhappy with working conditions, and another complaint based on discrimination other than sexual harassment, the report said.
There were seven administrative sanctions resulting from the complaints involving a legislator, and nine went before an ethics committee. One was referred for criminal investigation. Three complaints resulted in counseling, and in two cases the person who complained did not seek action, the report said. One complaint resulted in a mediated resolution.
The report also noted two sexual harassment complaints involving an employee of the General Assembly, as well as three complaints involving a non-employee.
Meanwhile, Maryland has contracted with the law firm Buckley Sandler to develop a specialized training program in workplace harassment at the start the state's annual 90-day legislative session, said Victoria Gruber, the director of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. Tina Tchen, a partner with the firm who is conducting the training, is a former chief of staff to Michelle Obama.
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"They have a workplace cultural compliance practice, and we're developing a specialized training for each of you for the beginning of session," Gruber told lawmakers. "It will be specialized for the Maryland General Assembly members as well as for staff, and we really hope it's going to be a legislative model for how to prevent harassment in the legislative arena and how to promote a positive workplace culture."
Gruber also said the state is in the process of contracting for a survey to gauge the climate regarding harassment.
"That survey we anticipate will be done during the legislative session, and we will hopefully be able to report to you on that early in the fall," Gruber said.
The legislature also has made changes to policies regarding harassment based on recommendations made by a state commission on workplace harassment. For example, it expands the legislature's policy to cover non-employees who interact with the General Assembly and the Department of Legislative Services, including interns, pages, lobbyists and journalists.