Missouri Senate boosts training on sexual harassment
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri Senate has updated its sexual harassment policy to require more frequent training for lawmakers and staff, joining a national trend of stronger legislative policies amid increased public attention to misconduct allegations.
Until now, Missouri senators and staff had been required to undergo sexual harassment training only once upon taking office — even if senators remained in office for the maximum eight years or staff worked for decades.
The new policy will require initial training to occur within 30 days of starting work, with additional training to happen every other year, starting in 2019.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said Monday that regular sexual harassment training should ensure people keep up with changes in law or societal expectations.
"We want to be sensitive to that harassment on any level," said Richard, a Republican from Joplin.
The Senate Administration Committee approved the policy change Thursday. No other action is needed by the Senate.
An Associated Press review earlier this year found that the vast majority of legislative chambers across the country have strengthened their sexual harassment policies following a series of misconduct allegations last fall against powerful people in politics, entertainment and the media.
Even with the update, the Missouri Senate still lags behind the House, which requires annual sexual harassment training. Richard said he thought yearly lessons "might be just a little bit of overkill."
The Missouri House contracted with a St. Louis law firm earlier this year to provide a series of 90-minute, in-person group training sessions on sexual harassment for lawmakers and staff. The Senate uses a computer training program taken individually that lasts about 45 minutes, said Senate Administrator Patrick Baker.
The Senate said it has no records of any sexual harassment complaints other than an allegation that Democratic Sen. Paul LeVota had harassed an intern in 2015. He denied the allegation but announced his resignation shortly after an investigative report was publicly released in July 2015. Records show the state spent about $25,500 for private attorneys to investigate the claim.