A comprehensive bill to try to combat sexual harassment passed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives Thursday.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo was not present for the vote but had very strong words in regards to a fiery debate that took place inside the House Chambers as Representative Diana DiZoglio of Methuen shared her story.
“The comments of the two representatives that agreements were used by the House to cover up wrongdoing are based on irresponsible speculation. The fact that the House today enacted a provision that waives any non-disclosure or non-disparagement provision of any agreement executed prior to today directly refutes their irresponsible speculation.”
DeLeo's comments are in reference to DiZoglio, who, in 2011 as an aide, was the victim of unsubstantiated rumors that she had inappropriate relations with a state representative.
Even though an investigation found she and the representative had done nothing wrong, DiZoglio claims she had to endure endless rumors about her sex life and was the target of sexual harassment.
DiZoglio was terminated - “wrongfully terminated,” according to Speaker DeLeo.
But DiZoglio claims she felt forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement with DeLeo’s office for severance pay - one of 33 his office says were signed in the State House since 2010.
While the bill to combat sexual harassment at the State House did pass, DiZoglio’s amendment to ban so-called non-disparagement agreements was voted down.
Rep. Diana DiZoglio of Methuen said, “These silencing tactics have no place in this House, they cover up misdeeds by politicians and others and they empower perpetrators to move from one victim to the next....These are public tax dollars that are being used to silence people because they might be critical of public elected officials in this chamber.”
In a statement, Speaker DeLeo’s office said he was “deeply troubled” by Rep. DiZoglio’s sexual harassment claims but says “none of these agreements were to settle sexual harassment claims.”
And one lawmaker called for his actions to be investigated by the attorney general.