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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: August 13, 2018 03:30 PM
From: Representative Frank Dermody
To: All House members
Subject: House Rules – Discrimination and Harassment Involving House Members and Officers
As legislators, we must commit ourselves to putting forth legislative initiatives that combat all forms of discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, in workplaces across Pennsylvania. That includes here in our own workplaces in the Capitol and district offices.

While both House caucuses have written policies and procedures for investigating and responding to complaints of discrimination and harassment, recent cases involving allegations of sexual harassment have illustrated shortcomings in the process for addressing these complaints when they involve elected Members and officers of the House.

As you know, Members serve upon election by the people and cannot be disciplined in the same manner as employees can be, and of course they cannot be fired. Similarly, officers of the House serve upon election to those positions by the House Members, making disciplining or firing those individuals equally as cumbersome. Consequently, the Pennsylvania House needs a defined process to handle discrimination and harassment complaints that involve Members and officers of the House. That process needs to facilitate a prompt and thorough non-partisan investigation and resolution with appropriate levels of transparency for the public and due process for complainants and respondents.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this resolution that would amend our House Rules to ensure a safe workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment.

The Resolution would amend the Ethical Conduct Rules of the House by:
  • Prohibiting discrimination and harassment by a Member or officer of the House against an employee or another Member or officer of the House.
  • Prohibiting retaliation against a House employee, Member, or officer of the House for filing a complaint with the House Ethics Committee or State Ethics Commission, a civil action, or criminal complaint, alleging discrimination or harassment or unethical or illegal conduct, or for participating in an investigation of such conduct.
  • Requiring one hour of workplace discrimination and harassment education and training for Members in each legislative term. This would be in addition to the two hours of ethics training already required by House Rules.
  • Expanding the House Ethics Committee's jurisdiction to cover discrimination, harassment and retaliation complaints against Members or officers of the House. The final findings of Ethics Committee investigations of discrimination and harassment would be made public, but complainants could request redaction of their names and other identifying information. Mandatory nondisclosure agreements as part of an Ethics Committee investigation would not be permitted, and Members could not benefit from a nondisclosure provision in a settlement if the Committee determines the Member violated the anti-discrimination, anti-harassment or anti-retaliation Rule.

    We have a duty to make sure our workplace is safe for each other and the women and men who work for us and with us. These updates to the House Rules would expand our ability to do so while providing the effective response and transparency the public demands of the Pennsylvania House in all complaints involving workplace discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment.

Introduced as HR1117