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Committee approves sweeping new sexual harassment policy

Iowa state employees must follow new sexual harassment rules after an emergency vote was held Thursday at the Statehouse in the wake of reports of alleged sexual harassment at a state agency.

The sometimes-heated Administrative Rules Review Committee meeting was just announced Tuesday.

"We believe this is a step forward," said Janet Phipps, director of Iowa's Department of Administrative Services, which serves as the equivalent of a human resources department.

But Phipps said the timing is not political, but "because this is an important incident. There were recommendations in the Weinhardt report that I took very seriously that we wanted to feel comfortable in making complaints."

..."From our perspective, this entire process has seemed rushed," said Matty Smith, with the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. He said the new rules aren't clear as to what investigations will look like.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa agreed, with director Daniel Zeno saying, "The proposed rules are a step backwards."

The groups, including Iowa's League of Women Voters, called on the committee to slow down, but state officials said the report on the Iowa Finance Authority presented an imperative.

Also at issue was transparency. The rules would seal investigations from the public without a court order.

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