House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he is planning a review of sexual harassment policies after a Boston Globe report cited 12 women who said they have been sexually harassed at the Massachusetts State House.
"I am infuriated and deeply disturbed to hear that a dozen women who are professionally associated with the State House have described being sexually harassed while here," DeLeo, a Democrat, said Friday in a press release. "While I understand and support their desire to remain anonymous, the fact that victims fear the consequences to their careers of reporting the harassment is as upsetting as the harassment itself."
"I'm appalled and saddened to learn of recent reports on Beacon Hill and support the House's decision to review policies to create a safer environment and encourage reporting of any misconduct," Gov. Charlie Baker agreed in a statement.
The Globe's story cited anonymous women who recounted how unnamed male lawmakers pressed up against them, touched, massaged or tried to kiss them, and in some cases demanded sex. The women were aides, lobbyists and legislators who had worked in and around the State House dating back to the early 2000s.
Similar behavior has been called out in other states — including Rhode Island — in recent weeks in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
DeLeo said in his statement that the House has a "zero tolerance policy" for harassment in any form, and will continue to investigate and take action on any reported incidents.
"Since I have been Speaker of the House, this institution has endeavored to create a positive work environment for all of our members, employees and visitors," he said. "To hear that we may have failed is deeply troubling to me. To know that, as recent headlines suggest, we are not alone provides no comfort.
"The national focus on this issue is well deserved and should serve to remind us all of the prevalence of harassment, and the need for constant vigilance to ensure that every person is safe and comfortable while at work."
"We have a zero tolerance policy and I know there have been times when that has been invoked," said State Representative Alice Peisch.
The long-time lawmaker says while she hasn't witnesseed any misbehavior, she does know about past wrongdoing.
"I am aware of situations that have been addressed," said Peisch, a Democrat from Wellesley. "I hope the speaker's order and statement sends a message that people who might feel they would not be heard will be heard. I am quite disturbed that there are people who still feel that they cannot come forward."
House Minority Leader Brad Jones issued a statement Friday applauding DeLeo's decision to review the House's sexual harassment policies.
"Everyone deserves a safe work environment free of sexual harassment, and no one should ever fear they will be subject to retaliation for reporting unacceptable behavior by a colleague, co-worker or supervisor," he said. "I strongly endorse this effort to address a very serious issue, and I stand ready to assist in any way possible."