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Montana's Senate Approves New Harassment Policy

Senate Majority Leader for the 2019 legislative session, Fred Thomas. Thomas is Republican from Stevensville.

Montana's Senate has approved a policy prohibiting legislators and legislative employees from subjecting someone to discrimination, harassment and retaliation and creates a confidential process to report and investigate complaints.

The package of rules that included the policy passed 27-19 Thursday. The joint rules now go before the state House.

Removed from the policy earlier this week were possible reasons for harassment, which included age, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas said then that he did not want to limit the policy to certain types of harassment.

“What we decided to do was broaden the policy so that it applies just in general. Discrimination and harassment is against our policy in any scenario.”

Democratic Sen. Margie MacDonald from Billings says the rule changes weaken the new harassment and discrimination policy.

“And it was a disappointment because it took out groups of people who are in the capital every day and who should be covered. And it also, I think, made it harder for people who are victims of harassment to understand that they are indeed, have a legitimate cause for pursuing redress under our policy.”

Before the amendments, the policy covered groups like lobbyists, members of the public or media.

The policy was developed over 18 months amid sexual misconduct complaints made against lawmakers elsewhere, and the #MeToo movement.

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