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DeLeo proposes review of sexual harassment policies

TIMOTHY TAI FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/FILE 2016

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

By Globe Staff 

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, after meeting with his leadership team Friday, took to the floor to propose a comprehensive review of all House sexual harassment policies.

DeLeo’s move came shortly after a Globe columnist reported a series of incidents of sexual harassment at the State House and amid a broader spate of stories about such behavior.

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“I am infuriated and deeply disturbed to hear that a dozen women who are professionally associated with the State House have described being sexually harassed while here,” DeLeo said in a press release. “While I understand and support their desire to remain anonymous, the fact that victims fear the consequences to their careers of reporting the harassment is as upsetting as the harassment itself.”

“I want to assure all members, employees and visitors of/to the House of Representatives, that the House of Representatives has a zero tolerance policy for harassment of any form and has, and will continue to, thoroughly investigate any reported incident of harassment and take decisive and appropriate action to discipline offenders and protect victims,” he added.

Governor Charlie Baker said he support DeLeo’s move. He said there’s a “zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment” in the executive branch and “expects the Commonwealth’s employers to create a safe environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

“The Executive Branch’s Human Resources department takes this issue seriously and conducts a thorough annual review of policies to ensure they are effective and updated,” Baker said via a statement. “I am appalled and saddened to learn of recent reports on Beacon Hill and support the House’s decision to review polices to create a safer environment and encourage reporting of any misconduct.”

The order that DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, proposed and the House adopted Friday afternoon calls for the House counsel to launch an independent, “comprehensive review of all structures, policies, procedures and operations of the human resources function for the House including those that relate to ensuring a workplace free of sexual harassment and retaliation.”

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The order calls for recommendations to promote, among other things, “recordkeeping practices that ensure investigators have access to any records of prior complaints” and “the imposition of appropriate remedial and disciplinary measures that meet the House’s commitment to a workplace free of sexual harassment and retaliation at all levels.”

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. quickly lent his support, releasing a statement shortly after DeLeo’s, applauding his “decision to initiate a comprehensive review of House policies on sexual harassment. Everyone deserves a safe work environment free of sexual harassment, and no one should ever fear they will be subject to retaliation for reporting unacceptable behavior by a colleague, co-worker or supervisor. I strongly endorse this effort to address a very serious issue, and I stand ready to assist in any way possible.”

House Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, a Somerset Democrat, said in a phone interview, “We can always improve. Nothing is perfect, and that’s why we’re taking this action and looking at the policies and making sure that they’re as strong as we want them to be.”

Haddad went on, “The policy has been used; people have been removed. But if there are people who either don’t realize that we have a very strong policy that we use and have used in the past, then we need to communicate that better, and then we need to look very carefully at our policies.”

Frank Phillips contributed to this report.