Amid Internal Harassment Discussions, Lawmakers Push Reforms
State House and Senate members are renewing their push to pass a slate of anti-workplace harassment bills.
Many of the bills have been in the works since last legislative session.
One bipartisan measure has already made it through committee, and supporters are hoping it will pass this month. If enacted, employers could no longer require someone to sign a nondisclosure agreement regarding potential sexual harassment cases as a condition of being hired.
In conferences promoting the bills, lawmakers referenced a harassment battle in their own ranks. A report on Leach’s inappropriate jokes and alleged inappropriate touching has prompted leaders in the Senate Democratic caucus to urge his resignation.
Katie Muth, another Democratic Senator from Montgomery County, has led that call.
She helped persuade leaders to update the original report—which her caucus received late last week—because she felt it should include more detail on Leach’s comments about her after she began calling for his ouster.
“He’s continued to bully us. It’s a never-ending effort to denounce and demean me,” she said, calling the current arrangement a “hostile work environment.”
Muth also called for the Senate to formally expel Leach—a rare step.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said he doesn’t intend to move toward expulsion until the final report on Leach’s conduct is complete.
The provisional report isn’t yet available to anyone outside the Senate’s Democratic caucus.
As the report’s subject, Leach hasn’t seen it.
But the Senator said the summary he has seen doesn’t justify resignation. Last week he disseminated it publicly, along with a statement declaring his exoneration.
He said his interactions with Muth have been limited and are irrelevant to the scope of the report.
“Katie Muth knows nothing about me,” he said. “She has no firsthand knowledge of anything.”
Leach has been accused of inappropriately touching female campaign staff and making overtly sexual jokes. He's also been accused of sexual assault--an accusation he vehemently denies, and over which he has filed a defamation suit.
The publicly available summary of the report Senate Democrats commissioned from an outside law firm said that Leach’s individual actions didn't break specific caucus rules, but that taken together, some of his "immature and unprofessional" behavior may have created a hostile work environment.
It said the assault allegations could not be proven one way or another.
Leach disputes Senate leaders’ characterization that his actions show a “pattern.”
In his statement, Leach apologized to "anyone who may have been offended" by his sexual jokes, adding that he will “work hard to do better.”
He said he supports most of the slate of harassment bills.