State Rep. Lori Berman is vying to replace former Sen. Jeff Clemens, who resigned from his legislative seat a week ago after admitting he had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.
The focus on Clemens prompted Senate President Joe Negron to highlight a change to the chamber’s sexual harassment policy — which an aide to Negron had been in the works for a year — released the same day the Lake Worth Democrat resigned.
The new procedure required workers to report complaints to their immediate supervisors, the Senate president’s chief of staff, or the president himself. Under the old policy, victims could also file complaints with the human resources office.
Negron has repeatedly maintained that the new policy was aimed at giving workers more options to complain if they have been harassed or mistreated.
Late Sunday, Negron said in a memo that workers “can and should report sexual and workplace harassment to anyone they feel comfortable speaking with.”
But Berman, D-Lantana, blasted Negron for the new policy and used it to raise money in a fundraising email sent this afternoon with the subject line “Shameful.”
“Yesterday, State Senate President–Republican Joe Negron–defended a terrible sexual harassment policy that discourages victims from coming forward.
Instead of going to a Human Resources department, like most major companies and organizations, the Florida Senate makes their employees report to their direct superior (usually a Chief of Staff or even the Senate President himself) if they wish to report an incident. This policy silences victims by forcing them to confide in the same people who have the power to terminate their employment, and who many times have political allegiances to the members being accused of harassment.
This is absolutely shameful.
I’m running for State Senate because this pattern of sexual harassment MUST come to an end. Victims should NEVER be shamed or marginalized.
More than ever, victims need policies in place that provide them the resources they desperately need without threatening their livelihood, their career, and their reputation.
I hope you will join me in making your voice heard on this critical issue. Together, we can change the culture of harassment in Tallahassee and throughout our state.”
Former state Rep. Irv Slosberg, defeated by Clemens in a primary in 2014, has also said he intends to run for the open seat.