Commission Moves Closer to Finalizing Report on Workplace Harassment

A commission formed to examine workplace harassment policies in state government in the wake of the #MeToo movement is close to finalizing recommendations. The Maryland Workplace Harassment Commission met Thursday in Annapolis to discuss recommendations for a final report that could be delivered to the legislature’s presiding officers in October. The recommendations focus on changing culture, increasing awareness and training, and making changes to state law and policy to keep in line with nationally recognized best practices.

Gruber seated at a table with hands folded
Victoria L. Gruber, executive director of the Department of Legislative Services, said a workplace climate survey is being put together.

 Among the draft recommendations:

  • Review alcohol policies and ban the consumption of alcohol in the state legislative complex, except at authorized events.
  • Prohibit lawmakers from operating a district office from their homes.
  • Improve awareness of anti-harassment policies by posting additional notices throughout the Capitol complex.
  • Expand training specialized for members and legislative staff.
  • Expand anti-harassment laws to include additional workers and activists with access to the legislative complex, including those people who have badges to access restricted areas.

Other recommendations are still being worked on. The commission wants to clarify provisions related to confidentiality in the state’s anti-harassment policies, but members spoke at length about the difficult balance to strike between an individual’s right to confidentiality and the goal of increased institutional transparency. Universally, confidentiality has been a barrier to tracking repeat allegations in large institutions, so the committee recommends enhanced data- and record-keeping policies to track repeated allegations made against the same person.

The committee also recommended a climate survey of legislators and staff to assess the incidence, prevalence and other characteristics of workplace harassment. This idea was included in a package of legislation last year, but was pulled out after lawmakers concluded it was an action that could be taken without changing law.

On Thursday, Victoria L. Gruber, executive director of the Department of Legislative Services, said the department was in the planning stages of a climate study, which was likely to be completed during the next legislative session.

The commission recommends a similar climate study among lobbyists. The commission has been meeting since February. Its recommendations are based on feedback at public hearings, interviews with lawmakers and people who work in the legislative complex and a review of best practices and policies in other states.

The panel is chaired by Jeanne D. Hitchcock, a former Cabinet secretary to former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D). Hitchcock declined to comment about the committee’s work on Thursday, until a report is completed.

Other members are: Kathleen M. Cahill, an employment attorney; Diane M. Croghan, chief of staff for Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh; Lisa L. Jackson, director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Prince George’s County; Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Mary T. Keating, an employment attorney; Amanda S. LaForge, an attorney and former chief counsel to the Democratic National Committee; Celeste Morgan, former executive director of the Baltimore County Human Relations Commission; Michael E. Morrill, who has worked for former U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) and former Gov. Parris Glendening (D); Margaret M. Naleppa, a former health care executive; former state Sen. James N. Robey (D); Susan H. Russell, counsel to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee; Elisabeth A. Sachs, a public policy consultant; and Sophia R. Silbergeld, director of membership at the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Danielle Gaines
Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.

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