All State House lobbyists got a first-of-its-kind letter from leaders of the New Hampshire House and Senate last week, detailing the Legislature’s sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures. Its message was simple: Lobbyists should know they’re covered by those policies, too, and should feel comfortable speaking up if they experience harassment.
“While the State House is where our Legislative Staff, Senators and Representatives work, we recognize the State House is also your workplace as you advocate for your clients,” Senate President Chuck Morse and House Speaker Gene Chandler wrote in the letter. “Given that, we wanted to let you know we take the issue of harassment in the workplace very seriously. We’d like to be perfectly clear: there is no place for harassment of any kind at the State House and we have a duty to protect all individuals who work at and visit our state’s capitol.”
The letter comes a month after NHPR detailed the stories of female lobbyists and legislators who said they routinely encounter sexual harassment and casual sexism during their work at the State House.
House Chief of Staff Terry Pfaff said the NHPR report didn’t directly prompt the letter, but he said heightened public awareness on the issue of harassment has helped to move the conversation forward at the State House.
“Certainly the media attention has been helpful in bringing the sensitivity levels up and have everybody look at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Pfaff said. “It’s a good exercise, actually. Nothing but good’s coming from this right now.”
Beyond affirming the institution’s stance against harassment, the note also included a copy of the State House harassment policy and contact information for the legislative officials designated to receive complaints.
Officials are also in the middle of revamping their harassment prevention training more broadly. Pfaff said they’re looking at making the training materials available to lobbyists as well as legislators.
“We want to be able to interdict and react rapidly if anything happens,” Pfaff said. “That’s their goal is to set the standard for the state.”
Legislative leaders also addressed questions about harassment at the State House during a roundtable on The Exchange last week.
Alluding to “a recent article that I read about lobbyists saying they weren’t comfortable at the Statehouse,” Senate President Chuck Morse said he wanted to emphasize that the institution’s harassment policies weren’t just limited to lawmakers — they “were meant for the public, for lobbyists, for newspeople, for everyone.”
“We are not going to let things like this happen, I can assure you of that,” Morse said on The Exchange.