The leader of Democrats in the Iowa Senate says he’s shocked by the accounts of sexual harassment that Republican staff in the Iowa Senate say they’ve experienced and witnessed.
A jury has awarded Kirsten Anderson, a former aide to Senate Republicans, $2.2. million for the discrimination and retaliation Anderson says she endured. Anderson argued she was fired in 2013 for complaining about the work environment. Senate Democratic Leader Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids says the trial demonstrated that not everyone in the Iowa Senate complied with anti-harassment policies.
“The initial news reports from day one and day two of the trial is horrific and that behavior is unacceptable,” Hogg says.
Hogg was elected leader of the Democrats in the state senate last November.
“Since I’ve become the leader in the Iowa Senate, I know we’ve had no complaints,” Hogg says. “In the 10 years before that, that I’ve been in the senate, I don’t remember any sexual harassment complaints in the Democratic Caucus and I will also tell you that I certainly have not seen any behavior like what’s being described.”
Last week, a man who still works for Senate Republicans testified in court that he was present when a Republican senator asked a female staffer to provide physical details about her breasts. Four GOP staffers testified that sexually inappropriate comments were common in the Senate GOP staff offices and grew worse as a another man in the office was going through a divorce.
“The legislature needs to make sure behavior like that is not happening,” Hogg says. “It is unacceptable.”
Hogg says if the Senate’s policies and procedures had been followed, taxpayers wouldn’t have to shell out $2.2 million “for the inappropriate actions of Republican Senators and staff.” Since 2014, all 50 members of the Iowa Senate and all senate staff have been required to complete a seminar about sexual harassment in the workplace. Last week, a woman who still works for Senate Republicans testified in court last that senators make jokes about the seminar and men in the senate still tell her they don’t know where the line is.
Anderson — the staffer who sued — worked for Republicans in the Iowa Senate for five years. Governor Kim Reynolds was a state senator for two of those five years. Reynolds told reporters on Tuesday that she was “not aware” of the harassment Anderson and others described, but Reynolds said that “doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening.”