State House Unveils Workplace Harassment Policy

Jan 7, 2019

State House of Representative leaders announced completion of a new workplace harassment study
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The State House of Representatives updated its new workplace harassment policy.

House Speaker Scott Saiki
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

House Speaker Scott Saiki announced the completion of the new policy which includes sexual harassment and bullying.  It also expands coverage and reporting procedures.

“The new policy applies to third parties who conduct business in the House and provides victims with options on where to report their complaints.  So that would include not just the chief clerk and the speaker but also the Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission and the EOC as well as federal or state court.”

A 3-member advisory group consisting of volunteers from outside of the Legislature drafted the new workplace harassment policy.  But, investigations and findings will be considered personnel matters and will remain confidential unless a House member is censured or expelled or the case goes to court.   Former House Speaker Joe Souki admitted to sexual harassment last year but resigned before an investigation or disciplinary actions.  House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti.

House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“ As complaints come in, they would be handled in a confidential manner where complainants will be given guidelines and a timeframe.  And, they have clear reporting mechanisms if the complaint against the speaker so that the can be safe going to the vice speaker and have an investigation come back.  So the test of this policy is going to be on what happens moving forward.”

All House members and staff will attend mandatory training Tuesday and members will vote on the new policy as early as January 23rd.  House Speaker Saiki says, if approved, the policy will be implemented immediately.

“The prior policy was one page long.  This policy is 4 pages long.  So we just want this policy to be broader and clearer and provide more specificity on what kind of conduct is prohibited. “ 

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.