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GOP lawmaker calls for overhaul of Texas Capitol's sexual harassment protocol

A GOP Texas lawmaker is calling on Governor Greg Abbott to help overhaul the Texas Capitol's policy and protocol on sexual harassment. (CBS Austin)

A GOP lawmaker is calling on Governor Greg Abbott to help overhaul the Texas Capitol's policy and protocol on sexual harassment.

State Representative Linda Koop, District 102 (R-Dallas), sent a letter to Gov. Abbott after the Texas Tribune reported many employees at the Capitol have experienced sexual harassment.

Rep. Koop said she was disturbed to hear of the allegations and that women feel uncomfortable reporting an incident or don't know how to.

"It's shocking quite frankly that it goes on in this day and age and to the extent, perhaps, that it does," said Koop.

Koop said protecting staff members should be a top, bipartisan priority.

Unlike most professional workspaces, the state Capitol does not have a human resource department that handles complaints of sexual harassment. Koop said female employees she has spoken to believe the current policy is confusing.

Koop also believes bringing up sexual harassment to your boss is often not practical.

"We hire our own staff. We fire our own staff," said Koop. "It doesn't seem like the appropriate place to go because it might be a situation when it is your boss. Or your boss' friend."

Koop said a new protocol should involve a more streamlined process that includes reporting harassment to someone trained to handle complaints correctly. She said it's also important that employees feel like they are able to trust that person.

According to Koop, the Capitol's current sexual harassment handbooks are decades old and also need to be updated.

Koop hopes to have a new protocol in place sometime in 2018, prior to the next legislative session.

Lawmakers on both sides of aisle and both genders have come forward offering their support, according to Koop.

"It's really important to protect our young people who are here," said Koop.

Koop said Gov. Abbott responded and is happy to help craft a new policy.

A spokesperson for Governor Abbott released this statement:

"Governor Abbott believes in and enforces a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. No victim should ever fear reprisal or retaliation for rejecting unwanted advances or for filing a sexual harassment complaint.
"As public servants for the people of Texas, the Governor believes that all state employees, especially and including those working in the Capitol, should hold themselves to the highest standards and treat staff and colleagues with the utmost dignity and respect.
"Every employee in the Office of the Governor is required to participate in Equal Employment Opportunity training within 30 days of being hired, and again every year after that. The Governor will work with the legislature on any improvements that provide further protections and deliver the respect everyone deserves and that as a state we should demand."

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