No workplace is immune from sexual harassment and discrimination. This includes the Michigan Senate. In a move geared toward addressing these issues within the confines of the state Senate, a bipartisan team introduced an updated policy that went into effect on April 26.
With the updates, the Michigan Senate hopes its members and staff support a culture that has zero tolerance of harassment as well as secure an environment where people are more comfortable reporting incidents.
Survey: members, staff and interns were targets
While the Michigan Senate already has implemented policies addressing workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, some people deemed them adequate and even confusing. During the past nine months, a bipartisan group of Michigan senators worked on ways to improve the Senate’s discrimination and harassment policy.
The group’s work was launched, in part, by a survey in which nearly half of Michigan’s 413 senators, staff and interns said they were a target of inappropriate behavior in the past five years. Fifty-seven percent of the Senate members, 14 to 26% of the staff, and 20 to 26% of the interns declared that they had been harassment targets in Senate-related settings.
Among the policy updates include:
- Strengthening communication regarding harassment prevention as well as understanding the protections for employees who are victims of inappropriate behavior.
- Urging Senate leaders to develop punishments and solutions for members who violate anti-harassment rules.
- Providing more frequent information related to the policies and procedures and educational tools available about preventing harassment.
Do these changes have bite? Well, at least, it is a start. The policy changes just could lead to a shift away from a culture that has led to far too many victims being harassed, bullied and frightened.