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Bill: No more secrets in sex harassment cases involving lawmakers

by | Jun 21, 2021 | Workplace Sexual Harassment |

Proposed legislation in Michigan would publicly disclose the names of state lawmakers implicated in sexual harassment settlements. In addition, the bipartisan legislation sponsored by Reps. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) and Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) would reveal the amount of the settlement.

Introduced during the last week of May, the bill just applies to situations in which financial settlements have been reached. Johnson said inspiration for the legislation came straight from the behavior of U.S. Congress members, many of whom secretly settled sexual harassment allegations.

Public disclosure and transparency

The requirements in disclosing the lawmakers’ names and settlement amounts would be in place as long as a court order does not bar the disclosure of such information.

The bill’s sponsors seek something clear, simple and straight: transparency in sexual harassment dealings involving state lawmakers. If such public officials are accused of sexual harassment and the state pays a settlement with taxpayers’ money, the public should know about it.

Michigan taxpayers have been on the hook for previous settlements of sexual harassment cases involving state lawmakers. During the seven-year period from 2000 to 2006, the state Senate investigated and settled sexual harassment cases that cost taxpayers $269,000. And in 2015, the Michigan House investigated one of its own members Rep. Brian Banks (D-Detroit), spending nearly $98,000 in a sexual harassment settlement.

The bill currently is under review by the House Oversight Committee, led by Johnson.

Currently, the Michigan House and Senate business offices are responsible for reviewing harassment and discrimination complaints against lawmakers. It turns out that lawmakers — if found in violation of such policies — cannot be fired because the public elected them to office. The only method for their removal from office is if their legislative colleagues expel them or if voters recall them.

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