The short answer? Yes.
When I learned that Bob Filner, embattled mayor of San Diego, had never attended a sexual harassment training despite being in Congress for nearly 20 years, I was shocked. In California, under AB 1825, since 2005 everyone else who works for an organization of more than 50 employees or independent contractors has been subject to mandatory sexual harassment training for supervisors every two years. In fact, according to the above referenced article from the Union-Tribune, the California legislature not only follows this requirement, but California state senators are trained yearly. And in the assembly and some state departments, staff must also attend.
Bob Filner may have the highest profile right now. But he is not the only politician accused of sexual harassment. For instance, there is a high-profile ethics investigation going on in the New York state assembly based on a sexual harassment claim. Not only did the assemblyman face a complaint of harassment, but allegedly at least one person in the Assembly sought to cover it up, without investigation.
Mandatory sexual harassment training will not stop all harassing conduct or harassment claims. However, it is likely to prevent the conduct and reduce claims. It will remind public officials on notice that there are legal limits to their behavior–public officials have a unique, almost fiefdom-like control of their staff. Even more important, public officials are supposed to represent the public trust. And at the very least, no politician will ever be able to say that he or she didn’t know because of a lack of training.
What do you think? Should Congresspersons and state politicians be required to attend sexual harassment training?