Among the revelations from the tidal wave of recent news on sexual harassment in the American workplace is that, when the accused is a member of Congress, the only recourse available to victims is a punishing process that's stacked to the alleged perpetrator's advantage.
The Louisiana Legislature has a different problem. There don't seem to be any rules at all.
There is a state policy, but it applies only to full-time workers, and legislators are technically part-time. The Senate has a policy stating that harassment of other members is wrong but lays out no repercussions, and the House is basically silent on the matter, according to Democratic state Rep. Helena Moreno of New Orleans, a leader in women's issues in Baton Rouge and incoming New Orleans City Council member.
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Nothing specific has come up in the Legislature in recent weeks, although Moreno and others have on occasion called out the chamber's boys' club environment. Not so in the administration, where a fresh accusation recently forced the resignation of Gov. John Bel Edwards' deputy chief of staff Johnny Anderson, who had faced similar allegations back when he worked for Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Those accusations came from two Southern University employees when Anderson was chairman of the Southern's Board of Supervisors.
Edwards acted quickly in response to the new charge, which Anderson denies, but that doesn't explain why the governor hired him in the first place when his past was well known. State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican, said the situation prompted her to ask the Legislative Auditor's office to examine the state's policies.
"If the governor really has a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment, why would he put the women there at risk by hiring someone with past allegations?' she asked.
Good question. And a comprehensive review of policies affecting all branches of government is a good first step toward finally bringing state government into the modern era.