State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) announced that she has introduced Senate Bill 270 to help reform the culture on Capitol Square in Columbus by revising sexual harassment policy and training standards for House and Senate staff, agencies and lobbyists.

“Within the last year, we’ve had a national movement that has sparked exposure throughout our state and throughout the United States on sexual harassment occurring not only in the entertainment industry but within state legislative bodies nationwide,” said Senator Tavares. “We want to make sure we’re leading by example to have a safe and welcoming environment.”

The bill would require entities who employ staff on Capitol Square to have a comprehensive sexual harassment policy on file with regular review. The bill also calls for annual sexual harassment training.

During a press conference announcing the bill today, Senator Tavares was joined in support by representatives from the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV), the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

“This bill is a key first step in creating a safe professional environment for persons working in the Statehouse,” said Camille Crary, Director of Legal Services and Policy at OAESV. “Senator Tavares’ legislation is innovative in its recognition of the array of professional relationships between legislators, their staff and individuals from outside agencies. The success of all who interact and collaborate within the Statehouse depends entirely on the ability to be safe from harassment or abuse of any kind.”

Additionally, the bill will create a General Assembly Sexual Harassment Task Force to review and recommend best practices for training, discipline and prevention. The Task Force will also conduct an annual survey to provide anonymous insight into existing attitudes and experiences.

“We know from the #MeToo movement across the country that women have been incredibly impacted by this and it absolutely behooves our state to have policies and training in place because that is the beginning,” said Nancy Neylon, Executive Director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network. “We can be a model for others – in other workplaces and in other states – and this bill lays out a very good plan for how the entire problem can be addressed.”

The bill was drafted based on a similar law in Illinois and using recommendations provided from a 2016 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Task Force Report on harassment in the workplace.

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