Two female lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives introduced a sweeping new bill to combat sexual harassment in the workplace to push for what House Speaker Richard Corcoran is calling “the strongest sexual harassment protections in the nation.”
On Tuesday, Reps. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, and Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, introduced HB 7007, a 26-page bill which would make a single unwelcome advance an actionable offense.
HB 7007’s tough take on sexual harassment would require employee and public officer training as well as require supervisors who observe or have direct knowledge of sexual harassment to respond promptly and initiate required actions.
The bill would also require criminal conduct to be reported to state law enforcement agencies and would also establish a task force to make recommendations on how to combat sexual harassment.
An amendment to the measure would also prohibit the use of political funds for legal defense, a not-so-subtle shot at former state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who used money for his gubernatorial campaign to pay for mounting legal bills in a sexual harassment suit.
If passed, the legislation would apply to state employees, legislative members, lobbyists, and other private 3rd parties.
"This legislation is proof that both parties can work together toward the common goal of protecting the safety of the workplace,” said Rep. Jacobs. “Republicans and Democrats both agree that all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and that we must do all we can to provide victims of sexual harassment and misconduct with protections from their abuser.”
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, applauded the measure, which is expected to be widely approved by state reps.
"There is no place in our capital city, our state, or the workplace for unacceptable and unwanted behavior,” Corcoran said. “Never again should one's job title or position of power shield them from accountability for their disgusting behavior.”
Florida lawmakers have prioritized combating sexual harassment during this year’s legislative session after several lawmakers -- notably Latvala and former Sen. Jeff Clemens, who resigned after an extramarital affair with a lobbyist -- were accused of sexual misconduct.
Earlier this month, a Florida Senate committee approved a mandatory one-hour course on workplace and sexual harassment.
The Florida House of Representatives already has a similar program in effect, though one currently doesn’t exist in the Senate.
HB 7007 is now awaiting a hearing in the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee.
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