Senator Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) released the following statement on sexual harassment:
“I personally know how hard it is to report sexual harassment and talk publicly about those experiences in the workplace. It took me a few days to fully reflect on the report from Ms. Cynthia Callais.
“Staff that have experienced sexual harassment don’t want to be labeled a troublemaker or be told to ‘loosen up and learn to take a joke’ or to even lose their job. Most people don’t report harassment because they wonder if they’ll be believed, wonder about any retaliation, or have previously suffered repercussions from reporting harassment.
“Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace should not still be an issue in 2021.
“The Minnesota Senate started updating the Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy in 2018 and adopted the revised policy in 2019. Additional non-partisan staff clarifications were made in 2021. As part of the initial group that worked on the 2018 modifications, I hoped the changes would improve the process to ensure people felt safe and valued. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
“The policy states in bold that ‘any report will lead to an investigation or a hearing.’ It also states that the harasser may be a non-employee. Ms. Cynthia Callais, a former staffer, believed she made a report. The process and the policy did not work for Ms. Callais. That is not acceptable.
“I would support an investigation or a review of the policy to ensure Minnesota Senate staff feel heard and respected. I have also asked non-partisan staff what policy and/or procedure changes we need to make so this does not happen again. I will also listen to staff and advocate for needed changes to create a culture and a workplace with a zero-harassment tolerance.
“Thank you to Ms. Callais and others who have ever shared their story. The stories help put the consequences and stigma on the predator and end victim shaming. I hope they empower and comfort others who might not be ready or able to share their story.
“Sexual harassment is about abuse of power. It is demeaning and it is harmful. It needs to stop.”