Iowa Senate Republicans over the summer lost a harassment lawsuit filed against them by former communications director Kirsten Anderson to the tune of $2.2 Million. In September they settled for $1.75 million.
Anderson, fired in 2013, alleged the reason for her termination was a complaint she filed about sexual harassment she said created a toxic workplace. Several hours after filing that complaint she was fired. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock) claimed it was due to poor work performance.
Anderson made her case, Dix and Iowa Senate Republicans didn’t.
It is a complete and utter mess and was entirely avoidable if they demonstrated a modicum of competency.
On Monday, Iowa Senate Republicans announced they were hiring, along with the Iowa House, a joint Director of Human Resources for the Iowa Legislature. This position would report to the Secretary of Senate and the Chief Clerk of the House.
They announced, “The position of Director of Human Resources was established to provide a clear and direct process for employees to issue sexual harassment complaints. The director will serve a variety of human resource functions, including, but not limited to, investigating complaints of sexual harassment and recommending appropriate action.”
It is a welcome step, but one, on Tuesday, Dix backtracked during a press conference yesterday. Dix announced he was putting the hiring on hold in favor of an outside consultant for obtaining more guidance on the issue.
What kind of guidance do they need? They’ve had since the complaints were first made in 2013 to figure this out. At the very least they have had since July to get their act together.
Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) said the House would proceed with hiring a Human Resources Director.
“The House will continue with the of hiring a human resources professional to assist legislative employees. I believe that this is the right decision. A human resources professional, dedicated to that role, will provide expertise and continuity in an increasingly complex field in order to provide the best working environment we can for our employees. The Iowa House will always look for opportunities to make improvements,” Upmeyer said in a released statement.
Senate Republicans needs help on this front, so it is mindboggling why they are now backing out.
Also, the Senate needs transparency for the internal investigation they conducted but reiterated they would not make public its results.
Their announcement on Monday stated, “Employees of the Senate have an expectation of privacy in these matters as reflected by Iowa’s open records laws and court decisions and that expectation will be met. Similar practices are also common in private sector employment. The investigation is complete and appropriate action was taken.”
Was appropriate action taken? How? No one was fired, and the one tangible thing they announced they were going to do Dix is waffling on. The employee named during the trial, Jim Friedrich, was never fired. Instead he resigned in September.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds called for greater transparency during her weekly press conference.
“I do believe that if there are additional facts that were not brought out through the trial process, being cognizant of personal information, I think that we need to be transparent and open and they should release that information,” she said.
I agree. Not releasing it makes it look like the caucus has something to hide and Dix’s indecision and his hemming and hawing has made what was already a bad situation worse.
“I am a farmer. I don’t deal with human relations issues on a daily basis. And what I do know and why I came to this conclusion is when you find yourself in this situation you seek out the advice and counsel of people who do. And nothing against the people here who brought me, to the best of their ability, recommendations at this point. I just think this is the smartest and the best way to go forward. Get some advice from those first before we go off in a direction we don’t know,” Dix explained during Tuesday’s press conference.
“I am trying to do the right thing, and that story doesn’t get told. We are working to do what’s common sense, and we are going to continue to do that. I would hope that people would realize that how proactive we’ve been, and we going to continue to do and try to find the best policy for the environment we have today where there has not been any new complaints. That we continue that and ensure that even happens at a higher probability,” he added.
“Bottom line, I would to sit here and say we do this action, we’ll never have this happen again. The problem is that these are human beings and that they work with each other, and they make mistakes, and so you can’t ensure 100 percent, but we are going to do everything we can to ensure the environment is what everybody should expect.”
Dix’s lack of experience with HR is EXACTLY why he needs to be on board with having a Human Resources Director. If he is trying to do the right thing he needs to move forward, as well as, make public the results of their investigation minus any personally identifiable information. Iowans deserve to know the extent of the problem and what steps the Iowa Senate Republicans are taking to remedy that.
If this isn’t done, he should step aside in favor of someone who will not just try to do the right thing, but do it.