Four Hawaii lawmakers have been the subject of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct complaints since 2008, an Associated Press investigation has found.
Three of the complaints were filed against House members, one against a senator. None resulted in a lawmaker’s suspension or expulsion. The senator was counseled and attended one-on-one harassment training.
Both chambers said state law required them to withhold the identities of the lawmakers because none was suspended or expelled.
The Senate and House provided the information in response to a request by the AP for records related to sexual harassment or misconduct complaints made against lawmakers since 2008. The AP filed the request under the state’s open-records law.
No complaint resulted in settlement payments to accusers.
State Sen. Laura Thielen, a leader of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, said sexual harassment or assault shouldn’t be tolerated at any workplace.
“It’s important for the employers to set the culture about that fact, that it’s not acceptable,” said the Democrat, who represents Kailua and Waimanalo.
Thielen said an employee of hers came to her with a complaint that someone was harassing her, not sexually, but more generally. Thielen said she took the complaint to the Senate clerk and was pleased with how the issue was handled.
“She was very professional and very responsive,” Thielen said of the Senate clerk.
All senators and representatives are required to attend training regarding sexual harassment. In the Senate the training is held every two years. Twenty of the 25 senators attended in the 2016 training cycle. The remaining five will attend in the 2017 training cycle.
The House has required training in even-numbered years in the past. But it held mandatory training this year and will continue to do so annually, said spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka. Anyone who misses training is required to attend a makeup session.
The AP inquired about the complaints amid a wave of reports about sexual harassment and misconduct in the fields of entertainment, media and politics.
The reports have largely come in the wake of a New York Times article published in October about misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who has denied all nonconsensual sex. The complaints raised awareness and encouraged more victims to come forward.
Thielen said the national discussion was leading to many “water cooler or hydroflask conversations” on the topic — “which I think is good because we do need to re-evaluate and update acceptable and unacceptable behavior,” she said. “I think these conversations are taking place in offices all over in the state and the nation right now.”
In Congress, U.S. Rep. John Conyers retired weeks after former aides shared stories of habitual sexual harassment. The 88-year-old Democrat and civil rights leader has vehemently denied he groped or harassed women who worked for him.
Another Democrat, U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, announced he would resign after at least eight women alleged he groped or tried to kiss them.
Texas’ U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold said last week he would not seek re-election after a former aide said he subjected her to sexually suggestive comments and behavior and then fired her after she complained. The Republican denied her accusations but apologized for an office atmosphere he said included “destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that in general was less than professional.”
There have also been cases of misconduct at other state legislatures.