A week after hundreds of women signed an open letter condemning an atmosphere of sexual harassment and worse in and around the state Capitol, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced Tuesday that the California Assembly will begin holding hearings on the issue next month.
Rendon issued a joint statement with Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), chair of the Assembly Rules Committee, and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), chair of the Assembly Rules Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Prevention & Response. Friedman's committee will hold public hearings in November.
In the statement, the lawmakers say sexual harassment must be addressed in three ways.
“First, we must change the climate that has allowed sexual harassment to fester," the statement read. "Second, we must ensure victims have a safe and dependable environment to come forward and discuss complaints no matter who the perpetrator is and without detriment to their career or environment. Third, we must ensure that sexual harassment is dealt with expeditiously and that the seriousness of consequences match the violations committed."
Yesterday the leader of the state Senate announced two outside firms have been hired to address harassment in that legislative branch. An independent law firm will look into allegations of sexual harassment and assault. An outside human resources firm will review the Senate’s policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
Organizers behind the sexual harassment letter criticized the Senate's actions as inadequate. They said the process lacked transparency and that women who have experienced harassment in the Senate have no incentive to cooperate with an investigation sponsored by the Senate.