Friday, July 18, 2008

It's time for the Federal Government to step in and protect State Employees from Abusive Elected Officials

The media is ablaze with stories describing a Sexual Harassment incident between a former subordinate employee and state lands commissioner Doug Southerland.

Once again, the elected official "stays" and the subordinate employee is forced to "quit" her job.

When is the state of Washington going to take steps to protect employees from sexual harassment and/or workplace violence from elected officials?

How many other incidents of inappropriate touching, inappropriate behavior or workplace violence at the hands of elected officials are "covered up" each year?

Does the state have an obligation to protect innocent subordinate female/male employees from harassment or violence? (You bet they do).

And now, for the billion dollar question: Who does the state of Washington represent - "elected officials" or the people who live and work in the state of Washington?

Did you know that the Washington State House of Representatives refuses to give victims of harassment copies of reports filed by the employee when they were employed by the state?

According to House Counsel, former employees are not allowed to have copies of their records, even for medical purposes. (Professional counseling to recover after the events).

Who instructed the state that they have an obligation to protect elected officials over their own employees? (Elected officials are not "employees" - they are elected representatives of the people).

Attorney General McKenna?

Governor Gregoire?

Anyone else care to explain what's going on?

Is there a single state legislator - male or female - that gives a damn what's happening to these employees?

Or, are the members of the state legislature going to continue to look the other way each time an innocent employee's hopes, dreams and aspirations for a state career are destroyed?

Three years ago, a young Department of Natural Resources Employee quit her job after being inappropriately touched by Lands Commissioner Doug Southerland in front of other DNR staff in a meeting.

On Wednesday, The Seattle Times ran a story that included an interview with Sutherland earlier this year regarding the allegations of Sexual Harassment against the female DNR employee.

Commissioner Sutherland specifically denied his actions were lewd, but acknowledged they were out of line with department policy and said it was the first time he’d ever received a harassment complaint.

For excerpts regarding documentation of the complaint, go to

Commissioner Doug Southerland is running for re-election. He has not offered to resign or step down, even though he does not deny the incident took place and that the young woman probably quit because of his behavior. (So, I guess that's ok in the state of Washington).

Seattle Times reporter Warren Cornwall tells readers, "Washington public-lands commissioner apologized after complaint by employee. Washington's public-lands commissioner, Doug Sutherland, "admits" inappropriately touched and made remarks to a young female employee who soon quit the Department of Natural Resources despite his formal apology, according to public documents on the incident from his own department."

So, can someone please explain why Department of Natural Resources documents related to sexual harassment incidents are public -when State Legislature documents related to sexual harrassment and workplace violence are not?

It's time for the Federal Government to step in and intercede on behalf of state employees who are harassed, or physically/emotionally abused by state legislators or other elected officials.

It's obvious that the state of Washington is unable to deal with these incidents in a fair, unbiased manner. Too many employees are forced to quit their jobs in order to protect themselves from additional harassment and violence.

The State of Washington (and all of it's elected officials) have some explaining to do.

"Reports examine sex-harassment claim vs. DNR's Sutherland" The Olympian Published July 17, 2008 posted excerpts from the young woman's complaints on July 15, 2008. Goldy also discusses other harassment incidents that have taken place in the state of Washington over the last few years.
Young woman quit DNR after being sexually harassed by Commissioner Sutherland
Goldy, 07/15/2008, 8:20 AM

No comments:

Post a Comment