SALEM — Oregon’s new labor commissioner said Wednesday her department will pursue its civil rights complaint against the Oregon Legislature, whose leaders were accused of allowing harassment to persist.
But Val Hoyle, who was sworn in Monday, added that her deputy would handle the matter. The complaint against leaders of the Statehouse was initiated by Hoyle’s predecessor, Brad Avakian. Because Hoyle replaced Avakian as complainant, protocol forbids her from being the final arbiter, her spokesman Saul Hubbard said.
Hoyle said in a statement: “I’m fully committed to ensuring that all Oregonians feel safe in their workplaces, including the state Capitol.”
There are two possible resolutions to the case: adjudication before an administrative law judge and conciliation, which means reaching an agreement to settle the matter, Hoyle said.
State Sen. Jeff Kruse resigned last year amid accusations he repeatedly inappropriately touched women in the Capitol.
In reaction to Hoyle’s statement, House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney pledged to make the Capitol a safe workplace free of harassment. They said they expect recommendations by the Oregon Law Commission aimed at achieving that will be swiftly implemented.
Among the commission’s recent numerous recommendations for the Legislature:
• Establish and fund an Equity Office with at least two staffers, one of whom would conduct investigations, write investigative reports and recommend interim safety measures. The other staffer would conduct outreach and training, receive confidential disclosures and provide advice.
• Make at least two hours of training available on multiple occasions throughout the year.
• Make respectful workplace training mandatory for legislative staff, including interns, and lobbyists.
• More clearly describe conduct that constitutes workplace harassment.
• Use cellphone apps that allow members of the Capitol community to submit questions anonymously or interact with the Equity Office or trainer; and use software for interactive training when in-person training is impractical.
Deputy Labor Commissioner Duke Shepard will make the final decision on the case, Hoyle said.
There had been worry that Hoyle, a former House majority leader, would give the investigation short shrift because she knows the leaders in the Legislature. Hoyle and both leaders are Democrats, though the post of labor commissioner is technically nonpartisan.