Dems: We agree ‘urgent action’ needed to stop ‘additional inappropriate behavior’

January 12, 2018

Iowa Senate News Release
Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen: (515) 281-3901
For Immediate Release:  January 12, 2018


Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen regarding recommendations from Ambassador Mary Kramer

“Today, we received recommendations from Ambassador Mary Kramer for improving the workplace culture in the Iowa Senate. We thank Mary for her commitment to making sure the Iowa Senate will become a safe and healthy environment.

“We agree with her assessment that the Kirsten Anderson case against Senate Republicans ‘shined the light on some disturbing issues present in the work culture of the Iowa Legislature.’

“More important, we agree with Ambassador Kramer’s conclusion that little has changed in the Iowa Senate more than four years after Kirsten Anderson was fired shortly after filing a complaint about the toxic work environment in the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus. As Ambassador Kramer wrote in her report: ‘As of now, there is nothing that has changed to prevent additional inappropriate behavior and ensuing problems.’

“That’s why it is critical for Senators Dix and Whitver to move quickly to adopt these recommendations and to involve more staff, legislators, lobbyists and others at the Capitol in making additional suggestions that will improve workplace culture.

“There are several constructive recommendations by Ambassador Kramer, including changes to the policies and procedures that would ensure that:

  • Victims of harassment have a clear path to file complaints and have them investigated in a fair, impartial and confidential manner. Current Senate policies in this area are inadequate, unclear and need to be improved.
  • Victims who step forward to file a complaint about harassment will be protected from retaliation or discrimination by anyone. The same protections must also be available for witnesses and others involved in any investigation. Current Senate policies in this area are inadequate or non-existent.
  • There will be a clear process for punishing any Senator, employee or anyone else who takes retaliatory action against someone who has filed a complaint. The same process also needs to protect witnesses and others involved in any investigation. Current Senate policies are inadequate or non-existent in this area.
  • There will be a clear process for disciplining any Senator, lobbyist, media employee or vendor who violates the anti-harassment policies. Current Senate policies are inadequate or non-existent in this area.
  • All Senators, staff, lobbyists and media will be required to attend annual training regarding the Senate’s anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures. Training currently provided to Senators and staff is viewed by most as inadequate or ineffective.
  • The Senate Majority Leader, Senate President, Senate Minority Leader, Secretary of the Senate and other staff supervisors will be trained at least once every General Assembly on how to properly receive, investigate and, if warranted, take corrective action. There are currently no requirements for this kind of training.
  • A person would have the option of filing a complaint with an outside firm if they are not comfortable going to designated leaders or supervisors.  There is  no such option in current policies and procedures.

“In addition, we suggest that Senators Dix and Whitver:

  • Ensure that all Senators, staff and others in the Capitol are provided with information about the duties and responsibility of the new human resources director, including what specific role she will play in improving the workplace culture at the Capitol and enforcing anti-harassment policies and procedures.

“Because of the national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace, we call on Senators Dix and Whitver – from this point forward – to adopt a more bipartisan, transparent and open process to solving this serious problem. Otherwise, they are doing a disservice to Iowans, including our staff and our constituents.”


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