Kansas governor to require annual sexual harassment training

(WIBW/Doug Brown)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — All employees and interns working for Kansas executive branch agencies will be required to undergo annual sexual harassment training, new Gov. Jeff Colyer announced Monday.

Colyer outlined the new policy during a Cabinet meeting and then signed an executive order during a Statehouse news conference to put it into effect. He allowed The Associated Press into the Cabinet meeting.

It is the Republican governor’s first executive order since taking office last week after replacing former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, who resigned to serve as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The executive branch has not had a single anti-harassment policy across all agencies.

“I just want us to make sure that the culture is respectful and very professional,” Colyer told his Cabinet. “I think that’s what all of us want.”

Colyer told reporters at the news conference that his administration will be “fierce” in enforcing the executive order but is still working on a policy for how employees are disciplined if they do not participate in the annual training.

Colyer’s order comes as the top state lawmakers are reviewing the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy, which has been in place since 1994 and hasn’t required annual training for lawmakers, their employees or interns. Legislative leaders held multiple, voluntary training sessions since December.

Top lawmakers initiated a review of the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy review after the ex-chief of staff for a former Democratic leader said publicly in October that a lawmaker once asked her for sex in 2015. She described harassment as “rampant” and said female college-student interns regularly served as after-hour designated drivers for intoxicated lawmakers in 2016.

Colyer said his executive order will require an outside, independent review when an elected official or Cabinet secretary is accused of harassment.

He said the order also will require agencies to review their anti-harassment policies at least once every three years.

Full text of order:
Policy Regarding Sexual Harassment
WHEREAS, sexual harassment and retaliation for sexual harassment claims are unacceptable forms of discrimination that must not be tolerated in the workplace; and
WHEREAS, state and federal employment discrimination laws prohibit sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace; and
WHEREAS, officers and employees of the State of Kansas are entitled to working conditions that are free from sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation; and
WHEREAS, the Governor and all officers and employees of the State of Kansas should seek to foster a culture that does not tolerate sexual harassment, retaliation, and unlawful discrimination.
NOW THEREFORE, pursuant to the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Kansas, I hereby order as follows:
1. All Executive Branch department and agency heads shall have available, and shall regularly review and update at least every three years or more frequently as necessary, their sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policies. Such policies shall include components for confidentiality and anonymous reporting, applicability to intern positions, and training policies.

2. All Executive Branch department and agency heads shall ensure that their employees, interns, and contractors have been notified of the state’s policy against sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, and shall further ensure that such persons are aware of the procedures for submitting a complaint of sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, including an anonymous complaint.

3. Executive Branch departments and agencies shall annually require training seminars regarding the policy against sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. All employees shall complete their initial training session pursuant to this order by the end of the current fiscal year.

4. Within ninety (90) days of this order, all Executive Branch employees, interns, and contractors under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Governor shall be provided a written copy of the policy against sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, and they shall execute a document agreeing and acknowledging that they are aware of and will comply with the policy against sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

5. Matters involving any elected official, department or agency head, or any appointee of the Governor may be investigated by independent legal counsel.

6. The Office of the Governor will require annual mandatory training seminars for all staff, employees, and interns in the office regarding the policy against sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, and shall maintain a record of attendance.

7. Allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation within the Office of the Governor will be investigated promptly, and violations of law or policy shall constitute grounds for disciplinary action, including dismissal.

8. This Order is intended to supplement existing laws and regulations concerning sexual harassment and discrimination, and shall not be interpreted to in any way diminish such laws and regulations. The Order provides conduct requirements for covered persons, and is not intended to create any new right or benefit enforceable against the State of Kansas.

9. Persons seeking to report violations of this Order, or guidance regarding the application or interpretation of this Order, may contact the Office of the Governor regarding such matters.
This document shall be filed with the Secretary of State as Executive Order No. 18-04 and shall become effective immediately.