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ND lawmakers to examine sexual harassment policy

Senate majority leader Sen. Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson), left, and House majority leader Rep. Al Carlson (R-Fargo) review amendments for legislation before a meeting at the state capitol. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune1 / 2
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BISMARCK -- North Dakota lawmakers will review their policy prohibiting sexual harassment next month amid a flurry of such accusations in media, entertainment and political circles, a legislative leader said Thursday, Nov. 16.

The Legislative Procedure and Arrangements Committee will examine the policy at its Dec. 6 meeting at the state Capitol, said House Majority Leader Al Carlson, a Fargo Republican who chairs the panel.

“We’re just going to review it to make sure we’re up to date,” he said. “It’s been a while.”

The Legislature’s policy includes two paragraphs on sexual harassment, which it says will not be tolerated “in any manner.” The policy’s definition of sexual harassment includes “verbal abuse” and “physical touching” of a sexual nature as well as any threat that somebody’s job will be affected by rejecting a sexual advance.

But the policy doesn’t lay out a process for reporting sexual harassment.

“That’s kind of what we need to focus on, is the process,” said Legislative Council Director Jim Smith.

Smith said the North Dakota Legislature doesn’t have formal sexual harassment training.

While the Minnesota state Capitol has been rocked by recent accusations of sexual harassment, both Carlson and Smith said they weren’t aware of a problem here.

Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, a New Rockford Democrat, welcomed the discussion on sexual harassment policy, noting that some lawmakers have called for the formation of an ethics commission. She said it wouldn’t be hard to find instances of harassment here, but declined to elaborate.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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