Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon files package of bills aimed at preventing, punishing sexual harassment
INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Munster) announced today that she has filed a series of bills—in tandem with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s zero tolerance policy—that are aimed specifically at preventing and punishing those people who commit sexual harassment in Indiana, including elected officials and employers in the private sector.
The package consists of four separate bills:
- HOUSE BILL 1573, which would set up a process for the removal of elected officials who engage in sexual misconduct, certain sex crimes, or the type of conduct inconsistent with the high ethical standards of their office.
- HOUSE BILL 1581, which would prevent a public official from using taxpayer funds to pay for private legal counsel or settlements in the event that the official is either charged with a crime or sued personally because of misconduct.
- HOUSE BILL 1577, which expands the definition of employers who can be charged with workplace discrimination.
- HOUSE BILL 1574, which creates the crime of lewd touching, which will cover any person who knowingly or intentionally rubs or fondles another person’s covered or uncovered genitals, pubic area, or female breast without the consent of the other person.
“Through my own experience and through conversations with law enforcement officers and the public alike, it is clear that there are many loopholes in a system that should protect women and men from having to face sexual harassment in the workplace,” Candelaria Reardon said.
“It is not a problem confined to government agencies but includes businesses across this state. It is important that our elected officials set the standard for behavior and provide a clear idea of what will happen to penalize those who choose to consistently engage in this conduct. That is what we are trying to achieve with these four bills.”
HOUSE BILL 1573 creates a 12-member officeholder oversight commission to investigate complaints against officials who do not hold Constitutional offices and are chosen in statewide elections, including the attorney general and the superintendent of public instruction. The commission would have the ability to remove an official who is found guilty from office. It also indicates that a lawmaker can be removed from office for sexual misconduct, committing certain sex crimes, and engaging in conduct inconsistent with the Legislature’s high ethical standards. It defines sexual misconduct as unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors or unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
HOUSE BILL 1581 would prevent statewide officeholders, members of the General Assembly, special state appointees, and elected county, city, town, and township officials from using taxpayer dollars to pay for legal counsel or damages in the event that official is found to have acted outside the scope of his or her duties or charged with a crime unrelated to the person’s official duties.
Current state law provides that civil rights laws cover most Indiana employers with six or more workers. HOUSE BILL 1577 would expand the scope of the law to include employers with one or more workers.
HOUSE BILL 1574 enhances the penalty for lewd touching from a Class A misdemeanor to a Level 6 Felony if it is committed by using or threatening to use deadly force, committed while armed with a deadly weapon, committed by providing the victim with a drug or controlled substance without that person’s knowledge, committed by a statewide officeholder or a legislator, or committed by a repeat offender.
“What we want to emphasize is that people should look upon their workplace as somewhere they can be treated with respect,” Candelaria Reardon said.
“A better work environment leads to better productivity. All people – women and men alike – deserve the right to come to work without fear that they will be harassed or subject to behavior that should not be tolerated in a civilized society. The standards outlined in these four bills protect their rights and send a clear message that people who sexually harass others will face the consequences of their actions.
“It is my strong hope that the Leaders in the General Assembly will join me and the chorus of people who have been affected by this broken system in seeking these necessary workplace protections for all Hoosiers,” Candelaria Reardon concluded.