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Oregon Legislature to release sexual harassment records


SALEM, Ore. (AP) – A leader in the Oregon Legislature says it will comply with a recent court order to turn over documents to the state’s labor commissioner, who is investigating sexual harassment at the Capitol.

House Speaker Tina Kotek made the statement Wednesday hours after an appeals court commissioner dismissed an appeal by legislative leaders of a lower court’s ruling that they comply with Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian’s bid to get the materials. Kotek said she hopes Avakian can protect the confidentiality of all the individuals who are identified in those records and who wish to remain anonymous.

Avakian last summer accused two fellow Democrats – Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney- of allowing a sexually hostile environment and of being slow to protect women from Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse, who resigned following allegations of harassment.

News release from Rep. Kotek:

Statement from House Speaker Tina Kotek on

Oregon Court of Appeals Ruling

“I remain fully committed to making the Oregon State Legislature and the State Capitol a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. There is work underway to improve policies and procedures for reporting inappropriate behavior, along with better workplace training and education that will improve our culture. I remain focused on this work and implementing improvements will be among the Legislature’s top priorities when we convene in January 2019.

Among the most important ways to create a supportive work culture is the ability to promise confidentiality to those who report incidents of inappropriate behavior or harassment and do not want to be identified publicly.

The Legislature will comply with the recent court order. But I remain concerned that Tuesday’s ruling will undermine the Legislature’s ongoing work to maintain that confidentiality and have a chilling effect on reporting in the future. This is not a theoretical conversation. My office is already aware of individuals concerned about their confidentiality being violated.

I believe there were other ways to address the goal of the investigation without compromising the confidentiality of individuals who have reported inappropriate behavior. Unfortunately, the Labor Commissioner disagreed.

In turning over highly confidential information, I hope the Labor Commissioner can assure to all of the individuals who are identified in those records and wish to remain anonymous that their individual right to confidentiality will not be compromised when the protective order is lifted.

To those individuals who expected their information would be kept confidential, I am sorry that this process might violate your privacy. I support individuals who are willing to share their information publicly, and I believe everyone should be able to decide for themselves if their story becomes public. No one should make that decision for them, and no one should fear being publicly outed without their consent for reporting inappropriate behavior.

If we are to make meaningful change, we must ensure confidentiality for those who come forward and wish to remain anonymous.”

News release from Senator Peter Courtney:

Statement from Senate President Peter Courtney
on Oregon Court of Appeals Ruling

Statement by Senate President Peter Courtney

“I worked as hard as I could to protect those who had come forward about working conditions. Sadly…BOLI and the courts have ordered the Legislature to hand over all confidential records of these individuals.

The executive branch and the judicial branch have made it very difficult for the legislative branch to have a healthy and safe workplace.

I will continue to work as hard as I can to have employees feel free to talk about working conditions without fear of having their identities shared.”

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