INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers approved an updated code of ethics Thursday, making it an ethical violation for state representatives to commit sexual harassment.
This comes after two high-ranking Republican elected officials were accused of sexual harassment last year.
An ethics complaint was filed against House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, for using campaign funds to investigate a woman who said she had a sexual relationship with him in the early 1990s. A lawmaker and three legislative staffers accused Attorney General Curtis Hill of groping them in May. Both men have denied the allegations, but Hill is facing a potential civil lawsuit from his accusers.
The new language, approved on a voice vote by the full House to its Code of EthicsThursday, allows any individual affiliated with the state’s legislative branch, excluding the representative’s spouse, to file a sexual harassment complaint against the legislator with the House Ethics Committee. The committee will investigate the accusation and if necessary, file a report with the House Speaker recommending sanctions.
If the House speaker is the subject of complaint, responsibility would transfer to the House minority leader.
The changes define sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature” — a definition one Indiana employment law professor told TheStatehouseFile.com was “shockingly dated.”
“Federal case law has expanded the definition of sex-based harassment to include more than sexual harassment,” Dr. Jennifer Drobac wrote in a review of the proposed policy in November. Drobac is a law professor at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
“Sex-based harassment includes sex-based and gender-based hostility, including gender policing and violence,” she said. “Surely, Indiana should enter the 21st century and provide a comprehensive definition of sexual harassment. If not provide a model for other states, it should at least conform with the 1993 understanding of federal law.”
Shelby Mullis is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
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