Two Utah lawmakers had to take additional sexual harassment training over the past decade after allegations of sexual harassment were made against them — including one who, according to records, told a legislative employee that it was nice to have “a pretty face” in the office.
Documents provided to The Associated Press after a public records request show that with each allegation, the Legislature’s workplace compliance officer spoke to the lawmakers involved about their behavior.
The records from the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, which serves as the Legislature’s legal branch, offered few details about the complaints and did not identify the lawmakers or the chamber in which they served.
Unlike other states, no Utah lawmakers have resigned or been removed from legislative positions over the past year because of sexual harassment or misconduct allegations. In several states, taxpayer money was used to settle claims against lawmakers.
Utah’s Legislature said it had no records indicating it had made any settlements in harassment or misconduct cases over a 10-year period going back to 2008, the period for which AP requested records.
All Utah lawmakers are required to undergo harassment training at least once a year.
The Legislature’s general counsel, John Fellows, declined to identify whether the two complaints involved lawmakers in the House of Representatives or the state Senate. He cited concerns that providing those details could reveal the identities of those who filed the complaints and could chill future reporting.
In one instance from October 2016, a female employee reported to the Legislature’s workplace harassment coordinator that a lawmaker called her names such as “honey” or “sweetie,” sought help setting up a date with a young woman and made comments about her looks. He told her it was nice to have “an attractive woman” and “a pretty face” in the office, according to records detailing the allegation.
The employee once thought she injured her hand and the lawmaker approached her at her desk, kissed her hand and made a comment about taking care of her, the records said.
She complained to him about the kiss and the comment, and he told her “I will remember that at your next evaluation,” according to an account of the conversation detailed in the records.
The female staffer decided not to make a formal complaint against the lawmaker, but the workplace compliance officer said the pattern of behavior was serious and credible enough to require action, according to the records.
After consulting with outside counsel, Fellows and another of the Legislature’s lawyers who serves as the compliance officer told the lawmaker his behavior was inappropriate. They described appropriate workplace interactions and warned him that he was barred against taking any kind of retaliatory action against the woman.
The lawmaker did not recall some of the events and was “visibly shaken by the allegations,” but agreed to re-take harassment training, according to the documents.
Records of the second allegation show that in April 2017, the compliance officer spoke with a lawmaker about following discrimination laws and the lawmaker underwent additional harassment training after that conversation.
Fellows said the compliance officer witnessed behavior that could potentially be inappropriate and spoke to the legislator about it.
Fellows declined to describe the behavior, citing concerns that describing it could identify people involved and make others fearful of reporting complaints.
Utah lawmakers are required to take online workplace harassment training annually and usually receive additional in-person training once a year during their party caucus meetings, according to a statement released by the Legislature.
Lawmakers have not proposed changes to their policies or trainings, but are considering requiring anti-harassment training for Utah-based lobbyists.
A panel of lawmakers rejected the idea in November, citing concerns about regulating “guests” at the Capitol.
But House Majority Leader Brad Wilson is working on a lobbyist anti-harassment bill to be considered when the Legislature meets later this month.