House now has a sexual harassment subcommittee

A House Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Subcommittee, an arm of the House Ethics Committee, was created Thursday with the adoption of revised rules for the House, reports The Tennessean.

The four-member committee will include Reps. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis; Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville; Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountains; and Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads.

The committee’s formation coincides with the creation of a new sexual harassment policy, which was adopted last year in the aftermath of revelations from the state attorney general that expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham had inappropriate sexual conduct with at least 22 women.

… Although any sexual harassment complaints against lawmakers will be initially investigated by the office of the Director of Legislative Administration, the new committee has powers to do its own investigation.

The committee will have the authority to “subpoena and compel the attendance of witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require and compel the production of any documents or other items of evidence relative to any matter under investigation.”

The new committee is also able to recommend any corrective action, which would be reported to the speaker’s office. Any substantiated findings from the committee would also be added to the personnel file of the member who was the subject of the complaint.

There are a few minor differences between the subcommittee and the Ethics Committee.

Complaints of ethics violations against a member can only come from another lawmaker. Others, such as members of the public, are able to recommend the Ethics Committee to consider taking up a complaint if they suspect a lawmaker has committed some type of ethical violation.

Anyone is able to file a sexual harassment complaint against a lawmaker.

Unlike the Ethics Committee, the work of the subcommittee would be private, said legislative attorney Doug Himes.



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