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New Sexual Harassment Complaint Investigations Policy Approved By California Lawmakers

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio / File

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio / File

The California Legislature has approved a new policy for how the Senate and Assembly will investigate sexual harassment complaints.

The Joint Legislative Rules Committee approved the proposal unanimously Monday.

Under the new rules, which were first announced earlier this month, an investigative unit would look at all complaints, collect evidence and interview witnesses. And a panel of outside experts would determine whether allegations are substantiated and make recommendations on potential consequences.

Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine told lawmakers that her office is preparing to implement the policy. She said there needs to be a “firewall” between her office’s attorneys and the panel.

She said her office is drafting legislative language for lawmakers to vote on before they adjourn at the end of August. She also said lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown will need to agree on funding.

According to Boyer-Vine, the workplace conduct unit would include four permanent employees — an attorney manager, two attorney investigators with employment law experience, and a clerical support staff member — in addition to the five panel members who would be under contract with the Legislature.

She said she is also looking for office space with adequate security and privacy, and that the workplace conduct unit’s technology needs include a new hotline, reporting website, and case management tool.

Lawmakers made a few changes to the proposal since its unveiling earlier this month. Those include accepting reports of inappropriate conduct from lobbyists and other third parties, and requesting that the chief justice of the California Supreme Court appoint a majority of the experts on the outside panel.

The chief justice’s office declined comment until it receives the proposal, but said it has discussed the matter with legislative staff.

The new policy will take effect next February, or whenever the new independent investigative unit is ready.

You can read the proposal here (see pages 3-7).

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