A survey aimed at finding out more information regarding sexual harassment and complaints on the issue was sent to hundreds of staff members, advocates, lobbyists, and members of the press at the state Capitol.
The questionnaire is in response to the national, and more recently, state conversations surrounding workplace safety, specifically, for women.
“I think it’s a culture that has been changing over time and people have been talking about it,” said Sen. Mae Flexer, (D – Killingly), an outspoken critic of the Capitol’s workplace protections. “It’s much better than it was here 15 or 20 years ago.”
The 20 or so questions focused on asking about individuals’ experiences working in and around the legislative branch, whether they have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment, and whether individuals knew how to report such incidents.
The survey was disseminated by the Executive Director of the Office of Legislative Management, the non-partisan office that manages the non-partisan functions of the General Assembly.
Rep. Themis Klarides, (R – Derby), the top Republican in the House, said the survey is a good first step in finding out broadly how people feel walking around the halls of the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building.
“I think in any, whether it’s politics, business, law, whatever it is, there’s always going to be people afraid to talk about it and it’s our job to make people feel as comfortable as possible if there is an issue, they should be telling us.”
Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D- Berlin) said he hopes respondents are honest when completing the survey, but did caution against coming up with sharp rules regarding conduct.
“You have many individuals of like-minds come here. They get to know each other,” Aresimowicz said. “If you tell them they can’t, they will anyways and just hide it and it becomes more problematic so we have to weigh that out.”
Flexer said she agreed with that premise, however, she believes there need to be boundaries between lawmakers and the people who report to them.
“The power dynamic there is incredibly complicated there and that should clearly be the rule that no legislator is allowed to be in a romantic relationship that they directly supervise. If they want to go down that road then they need to find a different working arrangement,” she said.
Lawmakers had discussed addressing workplace protections earlier in the session but with little time left for lawmakers to meet, it is unclear if any action will be taken as a result of the survey results.