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ADVOCATE FILE PHOTO --- Louisiana's State Capitol, standing at 450 feet tall, is the tallest capitol in the United States.

Louisiana lawmakers are being urged to pass legislation in the upcoming session to create a uniform anti-sexual harassment policy across state government and require state workers complete annual harassment training.

The two recommendations come from a final report issued by a governor-appointed task force that has spent the past three months studying the varying policies that currently exist. The group provided a draft recommendation of the policy that can be adopted across agencies.

"This (uniform) policy provides an unqualified assurance to state employees and the public we serve that complaints regarding such behavior will be handled expeditiously and consistently," the task force wrote in a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards this week. "This uniform policy also ensures a better understanding of the behavior prohibited; fosters a culture that encourages reporting of inappropriate behavior without fear of reprisal or retaliation; mandates training for employees, supervisors and managers; standardizes the complaint and investigative processes; and appropriately addresses violations to protest against recurrence."

The task force was just one of multiple ongoing reviews of how the state handles sexual harassment claims, including a legislative study and a state auditor's probe. Each was prompted largely by the resignation of one of Edwards' top aides who faced sexual harassment allegations.

Louisiana taxpayers have paid $3.9 million since 2004 to settle sexual harassment and gender-based claims going back to the 1990s, according to records obtained by The Advocate through a public records request.

The records show 66 claims for sexual or gender discrimination and retaliation, but mostly for sexual harassment. They were filed by state employees against other state workers, usually supervisors. Settlement payments ranged from $2,500 to $365,159.37.

Edwards, a Democrat, had encouraged the task force to recommend modifications to existing policies, but the panel instead drafted a uniform policy for all state agencies.

In a statement, Edwards praised the tax force's "comprehensive, uniform policy that can be implemented in all state agencies."

“No one should have to endure sexual harassment or discrimination while on the job. There should be effective policies in place that enable employees to safely report instances of harassment or discrimination without fear of retaliation, which is exactly what these set of recommendations accomplish,” Edwards said in a statement. “This will give employees the assurance that their complaints will be appropriately addressed."

Edwards said the new recommendations go a step further than existing policy by ensuring requirements for mandatory training and reporting of inappropriate behavior that will be the same across the board.

"These are very serious and sensitive matters and should always be treated as such but should never be tolerated," he said.

Edwards' former deputy chief of staff Johnny Anderson resigned in November amid an investigation into allegations made by a woman who also worked in the governor's office at the time. The woman has not spoken publicly about her claims, but the state has hired an outside attorney in anticipation of a lawsuit.

Anderson, who has denied all harassment allegations, had previously faced sexual harassment allegations from at least half a dozen women who worked for Southern University when he served on the system board and worked as an aide to then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2006. Court records show the university system reached a settlement agreement with at least one of his past accusers.

More recently, Republican Secretary of State Tom Schedler has faced allegations of sexual harassment by a woman in his office. The woman filed a lawsuit last week claiming Schedler had harassed her for more than a decade. Schedler has said he had a "consensual sexual relationship" with the woman in the past — a claim that the woman denies.

Edwards and some state lawmakers, including at least one Republican senator, have called on Schedler to resign from office due to the allegations.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.