Women's Foundation drafting sexual harassment policy for KS legislature

Posted at 3:08 PM, Jan 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-03 20:03:26-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Amid calls for change to a policy more than two decades old, the Women's Foundation in Kansas City got to work drafting sexual harassment policy recommendations for the Kansas Legislature.

“One of the most significant things is really starting out to help change the culture in the statehouse,” Women’s Foundation CEO Wendy Doyle explained.

Doing so starts with mandatory training for all lawmakers and staff. The nearly 30 recommendations also include calling for independent outside counsel to investigate complaints and ensuring the confidentiality of victims.

Sen. Barbara Bollier (R-6th) said she is disappointed the current 23-year-old sexual harassment policy won’t be updated before the legislative session starts next week.

“I have not had this experience where it has been a problem, but other people have, and the culture is that we don’t have policies in place. We need to fix that culture,” Bollier said of the climate in Topeka.

While drafting recommendations for Topeka, the Women’s Foundation drew on experience from other states. After complaints and resignations in 2015, the group worked with the Missouri House to create a new policy. It put in place an ombudsman to investigate cases of sexual harassment. Through a records request, 41 Action News learned seven complaints have been filed since 2015. The number increased from one in 2015 to two the next year and finally four this year.

Doyle said she’s actually encouraged by the numbers.

“I think what’s happening is more victims are feeling comfortable coming forward with the confidentiality piece that was put into place in Missouri,” she explained.

Doyle is hoping the same practice will be implemented in Kansas. Legislators received the group’s recommendations on Dec. 29 and will take time to consider them before deciding on implementation.

You can read all of the recommendations here.