Colorado lawmakers who don’t attend sexual harassment training could be publicly shamed

The Colorado Independent: The six Colorado lawmakers charged with drafting a new sexual harassment policy for a statehouse stung by scandal and accusation last session are contemplating a good dose of public shaming to prompt colleagues into attending harassment prevention training sessions.

Discussion last week turned to public pressure on lawmakers — perhaps by posting attendance online — after some committee members drew a firm line against making attendance mandatory.

“This is just a stake in the ground for me,” Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican who represents Colorado Springs said, emphasizing that he thinks training is important but that no one should be forced to go.

“They should be held up to public scorn and shame for not doing their training,” he said, adding, “If my constituents don’t care, then my constituents don’t care.”

Requiring a lawmaker to attend versus publicly pressuring him or her into it “may be a distinction without a difference but it is an important distinction,” Gardner said.

There was little pushback among the committee members, which is divided among three Republicans and three Democrats, to use public shaming to pressure lawmakers into attending harassment training and the committee informally agreed to further pursue the idea. What that training might look like is still undefined. And it remains to be seen whether it can change a culture described in a report earlier this year as one where “power dynamics play a large role in sexual harassment” at the Capitol.

And training alone can be ineffective, Patricia McMahon, program manager at the Denver field office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told the committee. An organization has to want to change, she said.

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