Amid reports of harassment, Senate leader says his office has fielded only two complaints
Although numerous women have described a pervasive climate of sexual harassment in the State House, Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg said Tuesday his office has fielded only two complaints of misconduct in the three years he has led the chamber.
Rosenberg declined to describe the two cases in detail but said both were resolved to the satisfaction of the alleged victims.
One case involved a Senate staffer who complained about a “visitor” to the State House, Rosenberg said. The other case involved a Senate intern accused of harassment, he said. Asked whether the intern was fired, Rosenberg said “options were put on the table” and the aide no longer works in the State House.
None of those accused were senators, he said.
Rosenberg said he believes the Senate’s sexual harassment policies are “state-of-the-art” and effective. He said women who have been victimized know that they can report misconduct to his office, and their complaints will be handled by one of three female staffers — his chief of staff, the Senate counsel, or the human resources director.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy,” Rosenberg told reporters whom he had summoned to his office for an end-of-the-year discussion of the Senate’s legislative accomplishments. “It’s been this way for more than a decade. And the system works. People know that they can step forward.”
Rosenberg’s comments come amid a national awakening about the prevalence of sexual harassment sparked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
As more women speak out about rampant harassment in media, politics, entertainment, and other fields, Beacon Hill, long considered an old-boys’ club, has come under fresh scrutiny for what many have described as its own culture of inappropriate behavior.
Last month, Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham reported on allegations made by a dozen women who spoke anonymously about the misconduct they have endured in the State House.
The aides, lobbyists, activists, and legislators told of situations where they were propositioned by men, including lawmakers, who could make or break their careers. They described men who pressed up against them, touched their legs, massaged their shoulders, tried to kiss them, grabbed their behinds, chased them around offices, or demanded sex.
Following the Globe report, Rosenberg said he and other senators discussed the issue for an hour during a closed-door caucus and agreed to look into additional policy changes. Some of those changes will be recommended by an ad-hoc committee of six female senators, led by Senator Harriette L. Chandler of Worcester. One area that has already been identified as “deficient,” he said, is the training of interns.
“We identified that as a weakness,” Rosenberg said. “We will fix it.”
Rosenberg, a 68-year-old Amherst Democrat who has served in the Legislature since 1986, said he quietly ordered a review of the Senate’s sexual harassment policies after he was sworn in as Senate president in January 2015. An outside lawyer helped lead the review, he said, and reported that the policies were sound, he said.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, prompted by last month’s Globe report, has also launched a comprehensive review of his chamber’s sexual harassment policies. Recommendations are due in March. DeLeo who has served as speaker since 2009, has declined to say how many complaints his office has received and has not said whether any have been lodged against lawmakers, staffers, or people from outside the building.
“Any action or any complaint that has been brought to our attention, we’ve handled,” DeLeo said last month, according to the State House News Service. “We’ve handled as quickly as possible, obviously with the victim in mind and we got the result we were looking for.”