The halls of Tallahassee will no longer be a place where sexual harassment thrives -- at least that’s the goal of Gov. Rick Scott’s latest executive order to combat harassment in the workplace.
On Wednesday, Scott made it clear state agencies would be cracking down on sexual harassment, issuing an executive order to fight back against the problem sweeping the nation, including the Sunshine State.
Executive Order 17-319 would implement several measures aimed at lessening incidents of sexual harassment in state agencies.
As part of the order, state agencies would be required to provide sexual harassment training for employees no later than 30 days after beginning employment, but higher-up employees -- like managers or supervisors -- would also be required to have additional sexual harassment training.
Investigations into complaints of sexual harassment would be completed by employees other than supervisors and each agency is instructed to take every action to ensure complainants and the accused don’t have further contact.
Scott’s new executive order is in addition to HB 397 proposed and signed by Governor Scott in June, which creates a public records exemption for identifying information of state employees who file sexual harassment complaints.
The news comes on the heels of a contentious month in Tallahassee, where one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers -- former Senate budget chief Jack Latvala -- has been accused by six different women and Senate staffers of making inappropriate sexual comments and of groping them.
Latvala denies the allegations, saying the entire list of accusations is merely a political strategy to burn his ambitions to the ground. He has spent the last few weeks launching an aggressive counteroffensive against the claims, specifically targeting top Senate aide Rachel Perrin Rogers, who went public with her allegations last month.
The Senate launched an investigation into the allegations, which should be wrapped up any day.
People like Scott, however, say they view Latvala’s behavior as a “distraction” in Tallahassee.
Though Scott didn’t name Latvala in his statement the timing of the executive order doesn’t seem coincidental.
Scott slammed the widespread allegations of sexual harassment Wednesday, saying state government and Florida “cannot tolerate” harassment at all.
“It is absolutely disgusting to hear about the numerous accounts of sexual harassment happening across the country,” he said. “Everyone deserves to work in an environment that is safe and free from any form of harassment.”
Other lawmakers have chimed in on the issue, taking a stand against sexual harassment rocking the workplace nationwide.
“We are here to say that you are not to blame,” said Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and Lauren Book, D-Plantation, in a statement last month. “As long as we are here, you will be heard, and we will do all that we can to help...We understand what it means to be victimized, demoralized, and silenced in the face of sexual assault. We stand with you because we all deserve to feel safe and to be safe. Be strong. Be brave.”
Scott also addressed potential victims of sexual harassment, reassuring them he was on their side in their fight for decency and respect.
“In Florida, we stand with victims and against those who mistreat others,” he said.