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New Rules Allow State Employees to Report Sexual Harassment to Gov.’s Office, Makes Cases Confidential

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A special meeting was called by the Administrative Rules Committee to vote on proposed rule changes regarding sexual harassment for state employees.

All of this happens in the wake of confirmed accusations against former Iowa Finance Authority Director David Jamison. The department of administrative services proposed the rule change based on the investigation’s suggestions so their new sexual harassment policy would fall in line with them.

Representative Rick Olson (D)-Des Moines says he feels the new rules don't go far enough. He questioned one piece of language regarding cooperation with sexual harassment investigations.

“Words matter and in this particular rule it indicates that somebody who doesn’t fully cooperate 'may' be disciplined, I would think that if somebody doesn't fully cooperate in one of these investigations that they 'shall' be disciplined” said Olson.

DAS director Janet Phipps says it was written that way so it gives the department flexibility.

“'May' is a term we usually use because it doesn't say that you have to do something. The finding will bear that out and if appropriate any discipline will be administered” she said.

Representative Olson also had concerns over a rule that would make all records in a sexual harassment case confidential barring a court order.

“Whenever you have a confidential investigation, often that can be a one-sided investigation. It would be nice that records be made public” said Olson.

Nevertheless, Olson voted for the rule change and the bipartisan committee carried the vote unanimously.

“I think it's a step forward, albeit a baby step” said Olson.

The new rules would allow people to report sexual harassment directly to the governor’s office if the accused is a senior member of their department. Additionally, an accuser can report to the governor's office or DAS without reporting the allegations internally. Olson did question the urgency of the meeting; a regular meeting was scheduled after the midterms.

“I would imagine that's one of the reasons we saw these rules today because the election is two weeks away” he said.

Director Phipps disagrees.

“We wanted people to feel comfortable in making complaints and I felt there needed to be an immediacy in getting this done” she said.

The committee’s chair, Sen. Mark Chelgren (R) Ottumwa, says moving the meeting before the midterms was done because of the desire to address the rule change in a timely fashion.  He also said he didn’t believe that this would have any impact on the election.

The new DAS sexual harassment policy has been released on their website. Some of its examples of sexual harassment include unwanted sexual advances, open speculation of another person's sex life, and displaying sexually explicit material in the workplace. A public comment period on December 11th will be used to address the policy and make any needed changes.

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