PA House Approves Resolutions to Address Workplace Harassment, Misconduct Coauthored by Oberlander

| June 20, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. – On Monday, June 18, the Pennsylvania House of Representative approved two resolutions, authored by Representatives Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest), Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery), and Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), to further safeguard employees and any individual who works for the government or at the state Capitol from sexual and workplace-related harassment.

“As part of the caucus leadership team, we want to ensure these important issues are dealt with through a thoughtful, deliberate approach, rather than an immediate response that may lack power and direction,” Toepel said. “By taking the time to listen to people representing all perspectives, we will be best equipped to improve the professional climate for Pennsylvanians.”

Toepel is the House Republican caucus chairman and Oberlander is the caucus secretary. Throughout her professional life, Delozier has been extensively involved in victim advocacy issues as a volunteer with YWCA, a counselor to rape victims and a member of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The resolutions would review current laws and regulations and make suggestions for improvements.

Specifically, House Resolution 828 would create a task force to investigate the laws, practices, and procedures surrounding harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace. This comprehensive review would reveal any inadequacies in current laws, regulations, and policies surrounding this subject and produce a report to the General Assembly with its findings and recommendations. The task force – which would consist of attorneys, human resources professionals, employers, state agencies and victims’ service organizations – would provide legislators with a blueprint for potential legislation. It is largely based on the resolution that created the very successful Child Protection Task Force established in 2011 following the child abuse scandals in Pennsylvania.

“A one-size-fits-all solution may not be the most effective approach for every case, and that’s why we want a thorough examination,” said Oberlander. “It is our responsibility to ensure that our laws reflect the best practices for both public and private sector workplaces and that they are applied fairly. A task force similar to the one we created for child protection will give us the ability to look at the issue from various viewpoints and consider the best avenue for legislative action.”

House Resolution 829 would review anti-harassment and discrimination laws and policies affecting Commonwealth employees. The Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) would be tasked with reviewing the number, types, and results of workplace complaints in state government agencies and entities and provide a comparison of workplace policies related to harassment and sexual misconduct.

“As a long-time victims’ advocate, both through my work in the community and as the author of various pieces of legislation, I understand the anger, frustration, and fear victims face,” Delozier said. “We owe it to the victims to remove barriers and make sure the most appropriate and effective safeguards are in place. The best way to do this is to evaluate what we already have in place in order to learn how we can address deficiencies to make perpetrators powerless in the workplace.”

The Senate is working on its own companion resolution to put the task force in place.

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