Ohio Attorney General candidate Steve Dettelbach announced last week a series of reforms he will fight for as Attorney General to combat sexual harassment in Columbus and Ohio state institutions.
Dettelbach’s plan will reinstate reforms in the Attorney’s General office that were rolled back under questionable circumstances in 2014, and will put in place new procedures in public workplaces to permanently end the culture of silence that allows offenders to continue abusing victims.
“I’m introducing this plan because it’s clear that too many in positions of power in our government – whether it’s in D.C. or Alabama or Columbus – are willing to turn a blind eye to sexual harassment or sweep it under the rug,” Dettelbach said. “I have been disgusted by the many reports of sexual harassment and abuse that have come out over the last few weeks – especially those that have come out of our Statehouse.”
Dettelbach said he has also been outraged by the fact that there are still individuals in powerful positions who have undermined protections or chosen silence when confronted with stories of harassment.
“Last week, I called on men to speak out against sexual assault and harassment. That’s an important start but it is not enough. We have to act, and that’s what I plan to do as Attorney General,” he said.
Dettelbach said the steps he’s announcing will bring accountability and transparency to public workplaces and will protect individuals – and the public – from abusers.
“The reforms will require our elected leaders to report and disclose any credible allegations, and hold them accountable if they don’t,” he said. “Most important, the steps will make it less likely for harassers to get away with the kind abusive behavior we’ve seen in the news again and again.”
Refuse to give taxpayer-funded representation to public officials who sexually harass others
The Attorney General’s office under Steve Dettelbach will not defend any elected official or state employee against whom there is a credible allegation of sexual harassment. The state should not defend those who abuse their position of trust to sexually harass others. The office is sending a clear message — if you abuse your power or your office, you’re on your own.
While the Ohio Attorney General is required to defend elected officials and public employees sued in the line of duty, the AG must first conduct an investigation to determine whether the conduct was “manifestly outside the scope” of the official responsibilities or employment. If so, the AG may elect not to defend the official or employee. Sexual harassment is never part of any elected official’s or state employee’s job description, and the State should not defend those who engage in this predatory behavior.
Require supervisors to report known or suspected sexual harassment, in writing.
Requiring supervisors to report sexual harassment in writing will go a long way to stopping harassment and making the workplace fairer. Most sexual harassers are repeat offenders and they get away with it because nobody steps in to stop them. Too often in the workplace and especially in Columbus, we see supervisors look the other way when they see something going on. Many times there have been prior complaints, or the harassing behavior was an open secret, but nobody bothered to do anything about it. Mandatory written reporting for supervisors will ensure that we stop the culture of “looking the other way.”
Require a mandatory written investigation report, with specific details.
It’s critical that there be a written report when someone complains of sexual harassment. Too often, we see employers claim there were no prior reports of sexual harassment because nobody bothered to create a paper trail, or because people tried to skirt the issue with vague allusions to “inappropriate behavior,” when in truth, they knew the comments or conduct was sexual in nature.
Ohioans deserve better than powerful elected officials who not only ignore problems, but sweep them under the rug. Let’s not allow employers to escape liability (or hide past misconduct) by pleading ignorance. Requiring a written record incentivizes taking action against harassers, and will help hold our elected leaders accountable.
Reinstate the AG’s the Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Officer and Advise State Agencies and Universities on avoiding harassment
The AG’s office had a sexual harassment compliance officer, until the current AG got rid of the position after someone made a sexual harassment complaint against one of his close advisors. By doing that, AG DeWine effectively told Ohioans that the rules don’t apply if you’re powerful or well-connected.
Steve’s running to make sure there’s just one set of rules for everyone. As Attorney General, Steve would reinstate the position of EEO Compliance Officer to make sure every allegation of sexual harassment is thoroughly investigated. This office would also be charged with providing counsel to all State offices, including universities on how to deal with harassment and assault.