Victory Lap on Sexual Harassment Bill May Have Been Premature
HARTFORD, CT — It’s the headline in every newspaper, but the House might not have enough votes or enough time to pass a bill written to address sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual assault.
“We are trying to work through issues,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said Tuesday morning. “There was a late amendment that was filed.”
He said there are “concerns within our caucus that we are trying to work through.”
But it’s unclear they will get it over the finish line.
“In its current form I don’t believe we’d have the time or quite possibly the votes to move it out of the chamber,” Aresimowicz added.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said the language that gets rid of the statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes is problematic.
Ritter said the public defenders believe it will increase their caseload.
There’s also concerns about whether it’s fair.
“People are trying to work through it,” Ritter said.
If there are still issues at this late hour with a bill, that usually means it’s dead. The session adjourns at midnight Wednesday.
Lori Pelletier, president of the AFL-CIO, said the #MeToo movement has taken down a Congresswoman in Connecticut, is headlined in every newspaper, and as recently as Monday forced New York’s Attorney General to resign hours after The New Yorker reported that four women had accused him of physically assaulting them.
“It’s something that needs attention,” Pelletier said. “It should be done.”
Proponents of the bill were working hard to get it called in the House.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said there were very serious concerns about the bill in the Judiciary Committee and the strike-all amendment that became the bill in the Senate didn’t help alleviate those concerns.
“The public defenders have been up here blanketing this building with information,” Klarides said. “It’s problematic now to even call the bill.”
She said they’re working on trying to make the bill “fair.”
“If you look at the form of the bill in the Judiciary Committee it was completely unrealistic as to the language of it,” Klarides said.
Lawmakers are struggling with eliminating the statute of limitations for sex crimes. Currently, it’s five years.
That means that neither comedian Bill Cosby nor Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics national team doctor, would have ever been prosecuted in Connecticut. Cosby has been accused of sexual assault by numerous women and was convicted by a Philadelphia jury in April of three charges related to a 2004 assault. He is awaiting sentencing. Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years in prison in Michigan in relation to sexual assaults over the years on dozens of young women.
Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, the main proponent of the bill, was not immediately available for comment.
The bill would also require a company with more than 20 employees to give all their employees two hours of sexual harassment training, and companies with fewer than 20 employees would need to give their employees notice of their sexual harassment policy in person or by email not later than six months after their date of hire.
Any company that doesn’t comply with the training and education component of the legislation would be subject to a fine of less than $1,000, according to the legislation.
If the legislation passes the House and is signed by the governor, it will then go into effect Oct. 1, 2018. Companies would have until Oct. 1, 2019, to train their employees.