Report recommends independent state office to investigate sexual harassment complaints

- A new state report says Minnesota’s government should create an independent office to receive and investigate reports of sexual harassment made by government employees.  

The Minnesota Management and Budget office released the report Friday following an extensive review of the state government’s sexual harassment policies and procedures. Gov. Mark Dayton ordered the review last fall after two state legislators were accused of sexual misconduct. Both legislators eventually resigned.

“There is no place in our workplaces for sexual harassment,” MMB Commissioner Myron Frans said in a statement. “Every employee deserves a work environment that is safe, respectful, and supportive. To all state employees who have experienced harassment in the workplace, we see you. We hear you. We will do better,” Commissioner Myron Frans said

The report and review focused on the executive branch consisting of 23 agencies and 33,200 employees. They did not include the judicial or legislative branches of Minnesota’s government. 

According to the report, there were 266 sexual harassment complaints across the 23 state agencies from 2012-2017. More than half of the complaints—51 percent–were substantiated after an investigation, while 40 percent were found to be unsubstantiated, later withdrawn or one of the parties left their job. 

The Department of Corrections had 73 complaints, the most of any agency over six years, followed by the Department of Human Services with 45 and the Department of Transportation with 33. The Bureau of Mediation Services, Department of Commerce, Department of Higher Education and the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation had no complaints in six years. 

MMB will present their findings and recommendations to the governor sometime in the next few weeks. 

In a statement released Friday, Dayton said he plans to propose legislation this session to establish a central administrative body within the executive branch that will address sexual harassment complaints. 

Supporters of changes to sexual harassment policies have organized a rally on Friday afternoon, calling for a task force to “ensure people working at the Capitol and in campaigns are able to do their jobs without sexual harassment or assault.” The rally starts at 1:30 p.m. at the State Capitol rotunda. 

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says while he "applauds the good intentions of those proposing a task force on sexual harassment," he believes a non-partisan Senate Counsel and the Senate human resources department are better suited to making recommendations on new policies. 

COMPLETE LIST OF MMB RECOMMENDATIONS 

  1. Create an independent office to receive reports of sexual harassment, conduct investigations, and enforce consistent application of the policy and procedures across the executive branch.
  2. Expand and routinely require multifaceted training on the sexual harassment prevention policies, procedures, and issues peripherally related to creating an inclusive and respectful workplace. The training should be entwined with a broader communication strategy to reinforce and engage employees.
  3. Hire and retain more diverse senior leaders and managers, improve retention rates of women in leadership positions, and expand women in leadership roles in traditionally male-dominated career fields.
  4. Implement a robust communication plan to educate and remind all employees of the sexual harassment prevention policy, procedures, and training and highlight resources available in creating a more inclusive and respectful workplace. The communication plan should specifically include a comprehensive all-employee survey with routine follow-up and evaluation of progress and a statewide communications toolkit to provide resources uniformly across all agencies.
  5. Expand sexual harassment reporting options for employees, including studying the creation of an external hotline.
  6. Expand resources for enhancing a culture of respect in the workplace through employee resource groups, diversity speaking engagements, and cultural competency training.
  7. Update the statewide Sexual Harassment Prohibited Policy to include guidance on the roles and responsibilities of those who witness the sexual harassment of others.
  8. Develop senior leadership and management accountability for the implementation of the sexual harassment prevention policy and procedures and achieving the goal of a more respectful workplace through separate management training, evaluation through reporting to the governor, measurement through performance reviews, and support the role of affirmative action officers as integral to the sexual harassment reporting process and in achieving the goals of an inclusive work environment.
  9. Regularly review agency sexual harassment prevention policies, procedures, and reporting. Ensure strong internal controls by monitoring for changes and deficiencies and make adjustments when needed.
  10. Propose law changes that will allow more transparency into the process for those who report sexual harassment. 
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