A state lawmaker wants to give employees who work at the New Hampshire Statehouse the same protections afforded to their counterparts in other public sector jobs across the state.
Right now, New Hampshire's public employee labor act applies to employees at state agencies, the judicial branch, the state university system and other public bodies. But the employees who work at the Statehouse are left out.
Rep. Renny Cushing, of Hampton, says that leaves legislative staffers with limited protections when it comes to sexual harassment or other issues within their work environment — because their bosses are state legislators, who are only disciplined in rare circumstances.
A bill he plans to introduce next session would allow those staffers to take steps toward a collective bargaining agreement and would allow them to bring forward issues about workplace incidents before the public employee labor relations board.
“It would provide the opportunity for legislative employees to band together to work under a contract that would have specific protections against acts of discrimination or retaliation, including sexual harassment," Cushing says.
While legislative employees can report such incidents to the Legislative Ethics Committee or legislative leadership, Cushing says legislators are seldom held accountable for their actions.
“It's important that we have a uniform policy among public employees that treats them with dignity and respect,” Cushing says. “I think the reason we haven't had this law change is because the Legislature does not want to surrender its absolute authority over its employees.”