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State lawmakers close to finalizing sexual harassment policy

INDIANAPOLIS (Network Indiana): A sexual harassment policy for state senators should be finalized by the end of the week.

The two-page policy declares the Senate won’t tolerate members making unwanted advances or trying to trade sexual favors for votes, nor will it allow retaliation for turning down an advance or filing a complaint in good faith.

Senate Ethics Chair Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) says the rule also allows the Ethics Committee to address unwelcome conduct before it rises to the level of harassment. As with any ethics violation, the possible range of disciplinary action ranges all the way from an expulsion vote to a private talking-to. But the policy requires the president pro tem of the Senate to take action to protect victims from further harassment or retaliation.

The policy also bans any sexual contact with interns, even if it’s consensual. Brown says even when interns are paid, their temporary status makes their position unique and deserves stricter treatment.

The ethics panel unanimously approved the policy. A final Senate vote is expected Thursday and would create the first-ever sexual harassment rules for Indiana legislators.

The House is hoping to approve its own similar policy this week, but may take longer.

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