New Hampshire not toughening its sexual harassment polices

  • New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper presides over the year's first session in the House chamber at the State House in Concord on Jan. 4. AP

Associated Press
Thursday, January 11, 2018

New Hampshire lawmakers are not considering changes to the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy and reporting procedures, although training programs are getting a closer look.

Following the sexual misconduct claims against prominent figures in entertainment, media and politics, a 50-state review by the Associated Press found that a majority of state legislatures are considering strengthening sexual harassment policies. But that isn’t the case in New Hampshire, which adopted its policy in 2008 and last updated it in 2016.

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said the Legislature and executive branch have had comprehensive sexual harassment policies in place for many years. Still, spokesman Ben Vihstadt said the governor believes they should be reviewed regularly.

He said Sununu is working with the Department of Justice and personnel officials to review the executive branch policy and encourages the Legislature to do the same.

While there are no immediate plans to change the Legislature’s policy, State House leaders did recently remind lobbyists that it covers them, too, and said they are considering making training materials more broadly available.

The Senate typically holds mandatory training sessions at the beginning of each two-year legislative session, and a majority of the 24 members attended the most recent session last year, according to Senate legal counsel Richard Lehmann. Another session is planned in conjunction with the House in late January.

Training for the 400 House members is not mandatory, but House Chief of Staff Terry Pfaff told New Hampshire Public Radio that officials are revamping their harassment prevention training and might make materials available to lobbyists as well as lawmakers.

The current policies and procedures were enacted after the House was sued for failing to protect a secretary from sexual harassment by a lawmaker.

In 2004, a jury awarded the secretary $188,000 in back pay and damages. The former lawmaker, Republican Tony Giordano, was ordered to pay 45 percent of the award, with the House paying the rest.