As it stands now if you are not a member of the legislature you can’t complain to the House ethics panel if a member sexually harasses you. You’re out of luck.
After testimony from lobbyist Andi Perez that she was sexually harassed by a Democratic state representative, Rep. Martina White sent a strongly worded letter Thursday to House Democratic leaders–Speaker Mark Rozzi and Leader Joanna McClinton–demanding action.
“As part of her moving testimony, which highlighted glaring holes in our ethics rules that have historically prohibited non-House employees from filing sexual harassment complaints against a member of the House, Ms. Perez called for reform of the sexual harassment reporting rules to allow anyone sexually harassed by a member of the House to file a complaint with the House Ethics Committee,” White (R-Philadelphia) wrote.
“This lawmaker decided to caress my leg — I was wearing a skirt — all the while telling me he was impressed by my passion and knowledge of the issues we were discussing. … I moved away from him, hoping he would stop,” Perez said. “He did not.”
Perez did not respond to a request for comment.
House Republicans proposed ethics rules for the special session that, among other things, would allow for sexual harassment complaints to be filed by non-House employees. In a speech from the floor Thursday, GOP Leader Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) noted all 102 House Democrats voted against it.
Cutler also reminded House Democrats that they overwhelmingly opposed House Resolution 192 last session, a bill to tighten House ethical conduct rules regarding sexual harassment.
“I’m glad we’re having this discussion because I wanted to have it some time ago,” Cutler said of the debate over the proposed ethics rules.
White said action is necessary now to protect staff from the unnamed Democratic House member involved in the alleged harassment and who is part of the Democrats’ 102-101 majority.
“This being the case, it is incumbent on the Speaker’s office—who claimed responsibility for managing House space—and the House Democratic Caucus who, implicated in this matter, to ensure members, staff, and outside visitors to the Capitol are kept safe from this individual who now has a history of sexual harassment.
“As a female member of this House, I encourage both of your offices to engage in an investigation to affirmatively identify this member and take any required remedial action, including seeking their resignation,” White wrote.
McClinton also spoke from the fl6oorfloor, mocking Republicans for what she claimed is a new-found concern about harassment in the House.
“I am so grateful that on this day in history the minority caucus is interested in protecting victims of sexual harassment,” McClinton said. In the past, she said, Republicans, dismissed concerns. “But now that we’re here for special session — suddenly everyone in the minority caucus is interested in handling sexual harassment.”
She also claimed the Pennsylvania State House has “a culture where there is harassment, unfortunately, [that] needs to be addressed.” But, McClinton added, “this is not the time or the moment to do that.”
In a statement to DVJournal, McClinton said, “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their workplace, and no person should be harassed or made to feel uncomfortable in the course of doing their job.
“Unfortunately, despite persistent advocacy for many years by the House Democratic Caucus, the rules that have governed our chamber have not provided a pathway for lobbyists, media, and other credentialed personnel whose business requires engaging with House members to report that they’ve been harassed or experienced discrimination.
“As the first woman House Majority Leader, I can affirm that discrimination or harassment of any kind in our institution will be treated with seriousness and urgency and that the forthcoming House operating rules to govern our chamber will include a fair process for claims of harassment and discrimination for all protected classes,” McClinton said.
The Delaware Valley Journal repeatedly reached out to the House member who sources said had touched Perez. He did not respond.