A new task force charged with examining sexual harassment and diversity policies in state government held its first meeting Monday to start the process of mapping out the direction that the group will take as it reviews workplace practices.
"I believe each of us shares a commitment to serve and provide a thorough analysis," said Janice Lansing, the chief financial officer of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority who is serving as chairwoman of the governor-appointed task force.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has instructed the seven-member panel to review policies and make recommendations for possible improvements. The task force was launched shortly after Edwards' deputy chief of staff resigned from his position amid an investigation into sexual harassment claims against him. Edwards' former aide, Johnny Anderson, has denied any wrongdoing.
On Monday, task force members voiced concern over what they viewed as a lack of uniformity in how the state discourages harassment and investigates claims.
"Part of what we are finding is people are not used to handling investigations," said Louisiana Community Technical College System human resources director Suzette Meiske, the vice chair of the group. "They don't know how to handle investigations."
Courtland Chaney, a retired professor at LSU's School of Business, said that many policies are crafted with a focus on mitigating liability. Instead, he said that there should be a culture shift focusing on how people are treated.
"The legal issues all get taken care of as a byproduct," he said.
Edwards has asked the task force to develop a series of recommendations and findings by March 1.