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N.H. State House Leaders Will Offer (But Not Mandate) Anti-Harassment Training For Lawmakers

Daniel S. Hurd via Flickr CC

New Hampshire lawmakers will get a refresher course this week on the State House’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. The program, scheduled for Wednesday morning in Representatives’ Hall, is not mandatory – but legislative leaders have said it is encouraged. 

Officials from the New Hampshire attorney general’s office and the state employee assistance program will be running the show, and the public should also be able to watch on from the gallery.

This kind of training has been offered periodically in the past, but state officials said they were updating the curriculum in light of heightened awareness around the issue of workplace harassment.

The issue of harassment in New Hampshire’s legislature came into added focus last year after it was revealed that, nearly a year into the legislative session, almost a quarter of sitting representatives hadn’t signed a form acknowledging they’d taken the time to read the institution’s anti-harassment policy. Dozens of additional lawmakers submitted their forms after NHPR published a list of those who had and had not signed.

Some female lobbyists and lawmakers have also spoken out in recent months about navigating unwanted advances and comments about their physical appearance as an added burden on their work in Concord.  Spurred in part by NHPR’s reporting on the issue, legislative leaders sent a first-of-its-kind letter to all registered lobbyists making sure they knew they were entitled to protections under the State House’s anti-harassment policies.

Rep. Amelia Keane, of Nashua, says she’s routinely dealt with unwelcome comments from male colleagues who seem more interested in commenting on her appearance than her work on policy issues.

While asking lawmakers to go to training or review anti-harassment policies is a good step, Keane said it’s by no means a panacea. Real change, in her view, comes from confronting this behavior head-on.

“One of the only ways to make a change in this culture at the State House is to continue to have women call it out when they see it, either personally or publicly,” Keane said. “People would much prefer things to be dealt with personally, but if that's not helping then it should be called to attention publicly.”

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