In First Executive Order, Kansas Governor Tackles Sexual Harassment

by | February 7, 2018

By Hunter Woodall

Following reports of sexual harassment in the Kansas Capitol, Gov. Jeff Colyer on Monday signed an executive order requiring all executive branch employees to receive sexual harassment training each year.

The order was Colyer's first since he became governor last week.

"We will be fierce about it," he said.

The order applies to thousands of executive branch employees. It won't apply to the offices of other elected officials such as the secretary of state, the attorney general or lawmakers, Colyer's office said, but his team is expected to encourage other offices to consider a similar move.

The order also requires every state agency to review its sexual harassment policies every three years, or sooner if issues arise.

Every employee, intern and contractor will receive sexual harassment policies, and every employee and intern under the executive branch will receive sexual harassment training. The training, Colyer said, will happen before the end of the fiscal year.

"I think it's very important that people see that we're transparent, that we're responsive," he said.

The Star revealed last year that legislative interns and other young women in the Kansas Capitol have faced sexual advances and lewd comments from lawmakers of both parties.

Legislative leaders condemned harassment, and Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, brought in the Women's Foundation to recommend policy changes.

Colyer's order puts Kansas in a leadership role, said Wendy Doyle, the president and CEO of the Women's Foundation.

"We couldn't be more pleased with the outcome and the leadership of Gov. Colyer so early in his tenure to be able to do this executive order," said Doyle, who attended the signing.

Lawmakers were strongly encouraged to attend sexual harassment training last month, though it was not mandatory.

"We've been working on this issue and trying to find ways to make this a better place," said House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican. "And we will continue to review our policies and look at the results so far, especially with the training that we have had both with our internship program and also the Legislature's."

Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, said she was pleased Colyer was taking this step.

"I absolutely hope that the Legislature also follows (Colyer's) lead and does something that applies to our branch of government," she said.

The Star's Andy Marso contributed to this report.

(c)2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)