Georgia Senate Limits Window for Sexual Harassment Claims
By Maya T. Prabhu
On his first day leading the Georgia Senate, new Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said he was not aware the chamber was going to make changes limiting the amount of time an alleged victim can report claims of sexual harassment involving a senator or staffer.
Duncan said his office will study the rule change approved by the Republican majority Monday -- the first day of the legislative session -- which requires an accuser to make formal claims against a senator or Senate staffer within two years of the incident. Previously there had been no time limit.
"It's important for us to go back and take a look at it," Duncan said Tuesday after the Senate adjourned. "But the Senate is an independent body. I'm not a senator. I'm a lieutenant governor. My job is to come up there and proctor the process up there."
The move came less than a year after a longtime lobbyist filed a sexual harassment complaint against state Sen. David Shafer. She claimed he harassed her after he helped her pass a bill in 2011. A committee made up of senators dismissed the complaint.
State Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, the only Republican to vote against the new rules, told colleagues Tuesday that she was disappointed with the change. Senate Republicans on Monday voted to block the proposed rule from being amended.
"I just think it's a shame," she said. "When we wanted to talk about sexual harassment, and we were stymied and we couldn't talk about it, there's a reason."
Unterman said she was sexually harassed within the past few weeks. She declined to go into details about the alleged harassment.
"We need these rules and regulations," Unterman said. "We desperately need them to protect these people and in particular women and women who sit in this body."
(c)2019 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)