Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, released his chamber’s new comprehensive policy on workplace harassment to members Thursday, emphasizing in an accompanying memo his commitment “to ensuring all of us have a safe workplace to do the people’s business.”

He said the new policy has been incorporated into the Senate Administrative Policies and Procedures.

“A proposed Senate rule related to sexual and workplace harassment is scheduled to come before the body at our sitting on January 24, 2018,” Negron wrote in the memo. “The Senate has zero tolerance for sexual and workplace harassment and through these changes to our policies and rules, we intend to make our commitment to a safe, professional work environment even clearer and even stronger.”

The policy statement follows a flood of sexual misconduct revelations in and around the Capitol, culminating in the resignation of Jack Latvala, arguably the Senate’s most powerful figure, a day after a retired judge concluded he likely sexually harassed and groped many women at the Capitol and violated state corruption laws by trading legislative favors for sexual favors.

Negron’s move to cobble together a stronger policy on sexual harassment could have been an effort to stave off a prediction Republican lobbyist and fundraiser Nick Iarossi made in November: “I think the overall feeling is that the investigations and rumors swirling around Tallahassee are going to have an impact on session, and the Legislature could have trouble accomplishing its goals, and that could have implications on 2018,” Iarossi told POLITICO Florida.

The new policy defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature …” See the full text of the policy in the attachment below or by clicking here.

The policy also outlines examples of workplace sexual harassment and the shape they can take: verbal, nonverbal and physical.

Staff who believe they’ve been victims of sexual harassment can complain to the Senate president; the Senate chief of staff; the secretary of the Senate; the Senate sergeant at arms; the Human Resources director of the Office of Legislative Services (Human Resources director); an employee’s immediate supervisor; or “a designee of opposite gender provided by any of the aforementioned contacts when practical. …”

Said Negron in his memo, “In the coming weeks the Senate will provide online training to all Senators and Staff on sexual and workplace harassment. We will also distribute our policies to lobbyists and make our policies available to other visitors to the Senate. I ask for your attention in completing the online training within 14 days of notification that the training is available.”

Negron ended by stressing it’s time to behave, follow rules but also get back to the people’s business.

“When we chose the path of public service, whether Senator or Staff, we chose to become a part of one Senate focused on providing answers to the issues and challenges facing our state,” he said. “I look forward to a successful 2018 Legislative Session and the opportunity to serve beside you with the singular focus of serving our citizens.”

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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