Legislative Environment Makes Sexual Harassment Difficult to Detect

12.	Legislative Environment Makes Sexual Harassment Difficult to Detect

Over the past couple years, a number of scandals have come to light involving sexual harassment in state legislatures across the country. Just last week, an Oklahoma representative resigned when it became apparent that his colleagues were going to vote to have him expelled from the Oklahoma House. A month earlier, a South Dakota lawmaker quit when it was disclosed that he’d had sexual liaisons with at least two interns. Reports indicate that at least 10 state legislatures have experienced allegations of sexual harassment or impropriety in recent years.

Critics say that there are unique factors about the legislative environment that can make sexual harassment more likely, as well as more difficult to root out:

  • Approximately 75% of all legislative seats in the United States are held by men, but a high percentage of interns, lobbyists, office employees and staff members are female
  • Most state legislatures do not have specific rules and procedures governing sexual harassment. Unlike businesses, which often have a well-delineated procedure for where to report sexual harassment and how allegations will be treated, legislatures too often give a lot of discretionary authority to legislative leaders. Case in point—the Oklahoma legislator who resigned last week was previously accused of sexual harassment, but most of his colleagues never knew, as the House leader secretly paid a settlement to the victim and kept the matter quiet—the payment was listed in state records as “janitorial supplies.”
  • Politics is a “power” profession—Those who are elected to office often assume that it gives them elevated status and allows them privileges not afforded to others.

Contact the Law Offices of Mallon & Tranger

To learn how we can help you if you have been the victim of sexual harassment, contact us online or call us at 732-410-6094 (toll free at 877-320-0692). There is no charge for your first meeting. We have offices in Freehold, Toms River and Point Pleasant.

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