RI lawmakers undergo sexual harassment training at State House

About two-thirds of Rhode Island’s state representatives took part in sexual harassment training at the State House on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (WJAR)

About two-thirds of Rhode Island’s state representatives took part in sexual harassment training at the State House on Wednesday.

It hasn’t been offered to lawmakers before, and the training was provided after Rep. Teresa Tanzi reported she had been asked for sexual favors by a higher-ranking lawmaker.

The standard diversity and harassment training was given by a worker from the Department of Administration. Speaker Nick Mattiello arranged for the training, but said the issue is not prominent in the House of Representatives.

“It’s absolutely not a big problem at the State House. Most of our employees are very content and they have a very secure workplace,” Mattiello said. "I think it’s appropriate to give people objective information on what’s appropriate behavior so they don’t innocently offend folks around them so they act as appropriately as possible in the workplace.”

One benefit of the training is that it can empower people who observe inappropriate behavior to intervene. Tanzi gave an example of someone listening to a conversation that is offensive.

“If a person who's standing next to me goes up to the person who was saying it later and says, 'Hey, that was an inappropriate comment that you just made. Did you see how uncomfortable Rep. Tanzi was when you were talking about that? That's not something that you should do.'” Tanzi told NBC 10.

Mattiello said it’s just the norm in corporate life these days to offer this kind of training.

Majority Leader Joe Shekarchi agrees

“I think there should be sexual harassment training for everybody, including Channel 10," he said. "I think all corporate America -- anybody who interacts with people today -- should go through training.”

All state workers have the training, and next week, senators will have their own training.

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