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Saturday, April 7, 2018

VIDEO: Why wait?

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The first meeting of Rhode Island State Representative Teresa Tanzi‘s Special Legislative Commission to Study Unlawful Sexual Harassment in the Workplace met on Tuesday. 

The first meetings of some commissions are sometimes only organizational in nature, with little of substance to offer.

But Tanzi hit the ground running with presentations from Cheryl Burrell, director of the Rhode Island Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity and Michael Evora, executive director of the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission, who provided a landscape of sorts about the current state of sexual harassment complaints and the procedures in place to deal with them.

The commission was created by legislation (H7678) sponsored by Tanzi in response to the national public discussion about the prevalence of sexual harassment prompted by the #metoo movement.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who cosponsored the bill establishing the commission, instituted anti-harassment training for legislators and staff after meeting last January with Tanzi about the issue.

In a statement, Tanzi said, “Women were given equal protection under the law through the implementation of Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it was applied for the first time specifically to sexual harassment in the workplace in 1986. It has been 54 years since Title 7 and 32 years since the Supreme Court decision, and it’s long past time to review our state’s laws to ensure they are effective.”

Tanzi “plans for the commission to review recent federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommendations and look at best practices around the country with regard to training so people understand what constitutes harassment and what to do about it, with the goal of encouraging bystander intervention, and empowering victims to report harassment while simultaneously protecting them from retaliation.

“A second goal is to review laws other states have enacted and make recommendations to update and strengthen Rhode Island laws.”

The commission should wrap up its work and issue a report by May 17.

About Steve Ahlquist  305 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading., Website Facebook Twitter YouTube