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California's lawmakers change capitol policy on sexual harassment

Lawmakers in California are overhauling all the rules on how sexual harassment claims against employees in the capital are investigated and handled in an attempt to create a culture where there's zero tolerance for such acts.

Like lawmakers in many other states, California politicians are distressed over reports that their own offices and capital building has been a haven for sexual predators because of the byzantine ways in which complaints were handled in the past.

Well, enough is enough. Now, complaints about sexual harassment or misconduct will be handed off to independent panels of investigators. Investigators will have special training regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition, a panel of experts will be appointed to make decisions on individual cases without oversight by legislators.

In other words, the victims of sexual harassment at the state's capital building no longer have to trust the fox to handle complaints from the chickens fairly -- which is essentially what happened under the old system. The old system effectively buried many complaints -- or made it so difficult to report sexual harassment in any meaningful way that many victims simply didn't bother coming forward.

The lawmakers' goal is to signal a shift in the culture toward sexual harassment. In the past, the balance of concern centered on protecting political careers from false allegations. This often allowed sexual harassment to thrive.

Lawmakers want to make it clear that this is the beginning of the end for predators who have enjoyed insulated power over their victims. Toward that end, the newly-proposed policies include changes in how sexual harassment training is given in order to make it more relevant and engaging. The proposals also update the methods that reports can be made to include anonymous complaints and online tools.

When a sexual harassment claim is verified, the public will also likely become aware of the issue, since the new rules call for details of the accusations and any discipline to be released to the public. This allows for greater accountability and transparency regarding sexual harassment complaints overall.

News like this is welcomed by many because sexual harassment victims need all the support and encouragement they can get to step forward. Many victims feel like their careers, not their harassers', are the ones in danger after an incident. These changes may help the victims of sexual harassment fear retaliation just a little less.

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