To Sexually Harassing Lawmakers: “This Is Inappropriate And We Won’t Tolerate It"

Just when you thought that it was safe for politicians to come out and harass. …

My post yesterday was about a Kentucky lawmaker who thinks that sexual harassment training is “ridiculous” and just “political correctness.”  He wants the 3-hour per year mandatory training for lawmakers reduced to 30 minutes.  He does not want to sit in a class for 3 hours – not necessary.

However, across state lines things are different.

A new article has been published about a Tennessee lawmaker who has just resigned in the face of “allegations of ‘inappropriate touching.’”  This came “less than a week after the legislature implemented its first mandatory sexual harassment training for its members.”

Maybe the water is different in Tennessee?

Anyway, this guy is “the second Tennessee lawmaker to leave the legislature amid accusations of sexual harassment” – the first one’s case being the catalyst for the mandatory training:  which consists of watching a 22-minute video.  That’s it.

Boy, are the lawmakers strict when it comes to themselves!

“Tennessee lawmakers watching the 22-minute sexual harassment video”


Training Alone Is Not Enough

The takeaway – besides this obvious blow to the efforts of the neighboring Kentucky legislator to reduce such training, is the fact that experts continue to say – what we have always said – that training alone “cannot change a workplace culture in which sexual harassment is tolerated — or ignored.” Remember “top down” culture of respect?  “Zero tolerance?”

“Sexual harassment experts said that one training video can’t take the place of a broader and more comprehensive effort to change longstanding workplace culture,” notes the article.

The Communications Director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center said that:

“Whenever we’re talking about efforts to prevent sexual harassment and create a work environment when sexual harassment is not tolerated, it really does take a number of initiatives working in tandem. Training is not in and of itself a solution to the problem.”

The CEO and executive director of the Nashville-based Sexual Assault Center said that:

“In general, I think if we think any kind of training is going to keep someone from sexually harassing someone, we are misleading ourselves. … [it falls on the legislative leadership to] set an overall climate that says if someone is going to do that to others, we are going to step in and say, ‘No, you can’t do that.’”

Takeaway:  The CEO above said it:  “Anytime you are dealing with people in power, I think the possibility is there. It’s constant. People have to be consistent in saying, ‘This is inappropriate and we won’t tolerate it.’”



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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]