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Idaho lawmakers to undergo mandatory training on workplace harassment

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 13, 2017, 8:06 p.m.

Idaho state Capitol in Boise (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)
Idaho state Capitol in Boise (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)

All Idaho state lawmakers will attend mandatory “respectful workplace training” on the second day of this year’s legislative session.

House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill are also asking all legislative staffers to attend, and are strongly encouraging lobbyists and members of the press, who work in the Capitol during the legislative session, to attend the Jan. 9 training session as well.

“Training will cover harassment in the workplace and will specifically address, among other matters, what does and does not constitute harassment, reporting avenues for complaints, and potential penalties for harassment,” Bedke and Hill said in a statement. In addition, the two will discuss potential changes in the Legislature’s anti-harassment policies.

The announcement follows news Tuesday that a complaint during the 2017 legislative session charged that Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, made inappropriate “flirty” comments to two women. Holtzclaw told the Idaho Statesman it was a “huge misunderstanding” and “a communication mistake of epic proportion.”

The Associated Press reported on the complaint after obtaining a heavily redacted document about it under the Idaho Public Records Law.

Bedke told the AP, “I give you my word that this matter was handled directly and immediately. We addressed it immediately and assumed the issue was closed. It was a valuable learning experience for all.” He added that the situation had been an eye-opener and was not ignored.

Just last week, the Idaho state controller’s office settled a sexual and racial harassment claim from a former employee, agreeing to pay the woman $83,000, provide training to staff on workplace harassment, and to not re-employ Dan Goicoechea, the former chief of staff to Controller Brandon Woolf who was the target of the complaint, in any supervisory capacity for five years.

In November, more than a dozen female Idaho state legislators signed a letter to legislative leaders requesting mandatory sexual harassment training be conducted at the Idaho statehouse.

In 2012, then-Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, resigned from the Senate and pleaded guilty to charges relating to sexual harassment of a Senate staffer. McGee served 39 days in jail.

Bedke and Hill said they’ve been working on plans for the training “for the past several weeks.” It will be conducted by the state Division of Human Resources and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office.


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