Following Harassment Allegations, Changes Coming To State Legislature

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Leaders of the state Legislature promise changes after multiple women came forward accusing some lawmakers of sexual harassment.

A DFL state lawmaker and a lobbyist have come forward alleging that Republican Rep. Tony Cornish sexually harassed them.

The allegations came after other accusations were made against DFL Sen. Dan Schoen.

Both men deny the allegations.

Gov. Mark Dayton and others have called on Schoen to resign. Cornish has been suspended from his chairmanship roles for now.

The state is hiring an outside firm to conduct an independent investigation into allegations made against Cornish.

Meanwhile, attention turns to what’s next for the culture at the Capitol.

The state House majority and minority leaders have released a to-do list for the Minnesota state Legislature relating to issues surrounding sexual harassment at the Capitol.

They include a full day of mandatory discrimination and harassment training, including implicit bias training.

As well as reviewing and improving current House policies on harassment and discrimination, with the possibility of adopting additional policies aimed at protecting lobbyists from harassment.

The promises come after a lawmaker and lobbyist accused Cornish of sexual harassment. Cornish has denied the allegations.

“Most policies require victims of sexual harassment to make a report within the system, within the employer, and it can be a defense if someone doesn’t report sexual harassment if they later claim responsibility it can be a defense if they didn’t report it,” employment attorney John Ella said.

Ella isn’t involved directly with the accusations at the Capitol. He says a dispute over whether a complaint warrants a report is not uncommon

There has been some back and forth between House leaders about who knew about the allegations when and if House leaders followed proper protocol when allegations surfaced as far back as May.

“There just seems to be a proliferation of allegations of sexual harassment from Hollywood to Washington, D.C., and the Capitol building in St. Paul,” Ella said. “It is something that society is paying attention to right now.”

Ella says victims of sexual harassment should make reports, and clarifying policies like the Legislature is aiming to do now can help victims feel more comfortable coming forward.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled for next week for top lawmakers to discuss the future of sexual harassment training at the Capitol.

More from Nina Moini

More From WCCO | CBS Minnesota

Good Question
Best Of Minnesota
Excellent Educator

Watch & Listen LIVE