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Iowa Officials Fast-Track New Sexual Harassment Policies for State Agencies

Iowa lawmakers approved new rules Thursday for handling sexual harassment complaints in state government a month after an investigation found a former state agency director harassed employees.

The emergency rules, which were fast-tracked without public input, clarified that the Department of Administrative Services will investigate harassment and discrimination complaints from state employees.

DAS Director Janet Phipps was asked why the agency didn’t follow the typical rulemaking procedure that includes a public comment period.

“Because it needs to happen now. We had ambiguity in our procedures and our rules, and that needs to happen now,” Phipps said. “Sexual harassment is an important issue. We needed to get those clarified and get some clarity out for people.”

...Phipps told the Administrative Rules Review Committee at a special meeting Thursday that she felt she needed to act immediately after reading Weinhardt’s report. The new policies also say that employees who refuse to cooperate with an investigation or retaliate against accusers may face discipline.

Matty Smith with the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault told the committee the process seemed rushed, and the new policies aren’t good enough.

“We have heard from far too many survivors and victims who have had experiences with ineffective processes,” Smith said. “It’s really, really important that we get this right.”

Several Democratic lawmakers pointed out what they saw as flaws in the new policies, but all 10 committee members voted to adopt the rules at the end of the meeting.

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