The leaders of the General Assembly voted Tuesday to update the body’s sexual harassment policy for both elected officials and staff in light of complaints lodged in other statehouses around the country.
The new policy requires an annual report that will reveal the number of harassment reports made each year. For each allegation of sexual harassment, the Department of Legislative Services’ Human Resources Manager will have to identify the type of harassment and how it was handled. The report won’t contain any names.
The changes made Tuesday also clarify that reports of harassment can be referred to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which in turn can issue a public reprimand or even expel legislators.
Senate President Mike Miller said problems in other states’ legislatures, such as in Texas, prompted this review.
“It’s a matter of national concern that legislators aren’t dealing with it expeditiously and promptly and giving it the rightful concern that it deserves,” he said.
By comparison, House Speaker Michael Busch praised Maryland’s harassment policy.
“My understanding is we probably have the best guidelines and training for sexual harassment of any state in the union, as far as the legislature is concerned,” Busch said.
Alexandra Hughes, Busch’s chief of staff, said she couldn’t legally say how many reports of sexual harassment the office has received in the past.
Last year, the legislature made other changes to the policy, including allowing someone who witnesses someone else get harassed to report the incident on that person’s behalf.