The Washington State Senate today released its new ‘Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct’ following approval by the Senate Facilities & Operations Committee. The recommendations were developed by the Respectful Workplace Policy Task Force made up of Senate staff from both caucuses and non-partisan Committee Services.

The Senate’s previous policy was updated to better reflect current best practices for addressing workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. Most notably, the policy creates a non-partisan Human Resource Officer position to manage the complaint and investigation process. The new policy requires the person who fills this position to manage regular training on the policy at least every two years and when new staff is hired or a new member is elected.

The new policy also codifies the Senate’s current practice of releasing to the public investigation records involving members of the Senate if a Senator is a respondent and the Secretary of the Senate or Facilities & Operations Committee finds a violation.

The ‘Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct’ and relevant resources for staff will be available online for easy access.

“The task force that developed this policy has been a great example of a collaboration between the Senate caucuses and Committee Services. Everyone’s voices were heard and the result is a more appropriate policy that takes very seriously the responsibility to provide staff with a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and intimidation. It respects the accuser’s right to privacy, the accused’s right to due process and the public’s right to know,” said Kimberly Wirtz, Communications Director for the Senate Republican Caucus and a member of the Task Force. “We believe this policy will instill more confidence in the reporting and investigation of complaints.”

“I’m pleased with the collaborative work we did to respond to the requests of many employees for a clearer policy with better paths for seeking resolution,” said Sarah Clifthorne, Policy Coordinator for the Senate Democratic Caucus and a member of the Task Force. “This policy was written by Senate employees, for Senate employees. I look forward to the next phase where we can hear from our external stakeholders and partners in the House.”

Several members of the Task Force have agreed to take part in its next steps. These include working with stakeholders and lobbyists to get their input on how best to create a safe workplace for every person who works at the legislature. The Task Force also anticipates working with the House of Representatives as it continues to revise its own workplace conduct policy.

The Respectful Workplace Policy Task Force was created to update the harassment and discrimination policy of the Washington State Senate. It consists of male and female Senate staff. These staff members were from all employment levels and from both the Democrat and Republican caucuses, as well as non-partisan Senate Committee Services. The Task Force developed the new ‘Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct’ after 13 meetings over six months totaling many hours of meeting time, as well as in numerous online discussions.

In the course of its work, the members of the Task Force consulted with their individual workgroups, surveyed all Senate staff, and consulted with Senate Counsel and an Assistant Attorney General with expertise in harassment and discrimination law. They also considered policies of other agencies, states and private sector employers in developing a consensus recommendation. Staff were also surveyed to gauge everyone’s ideas of best practices.

See policy for further details. To read online, click here.