Parish accused of sexual harassment

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Justin Parish decided not to seek re-election to house district 34.

    The Juneau Empire reported that Parish had a sexual harassment claim filed against him back in February.   He was ordered by House Speaker Bryce Edgmon to take additional sexual harassment training.

    The complaint cited instances of unwanted sexual encounters that began before Parish's election to the legislature in November, 2016.  The woman who filed the complaint cited unwanted attention, flirting, phone calls, and touching on the arms and torso.  The report also said the woman repeatedly requested that Parish cease his actions.

    Parish told the Empire that the complaint had no role in his decision not to seek re-election.

    The Associated Press earlier this year reported there had been three complaints of sexual harassment against legislators in the past year.  Two of them, Dean Westlake and Zach Fansler, are no longer in the legislature.

    Ironically, the legislature this week finished a revision of its sexual harassment policies and will allow for the use of outside investigators in cases that involve legislators under certain circumstances.  That decision would be up to the Legislature's human resources manager.  A presiding officer or minority leader can also make a request for an outside investigator.

    The legislator who violates the policy could be subject to disciplinary action that the presiding officer, minority leader of the House or Senate deems appropriate.

    Workplace harassment could include unwelcome conduct that occurs outside of work, during non-work hours, if it has consequences in the workplace. People who don't work for the Legislature who are found in violation of the policy could be temporarily or permanently removed from legislative buildings.

    The Legislative Council announced in November it would revise policies enacted in 2000 that were criticized as too vague, amid the national conversation over workplace harassment.

    In December, Democratic Rep. Dean Westlake resigned after one woman disclosed publicly she was subjected to unwanted physical contact from Westlake. Other women, who spoke anonymously, said Westlake acted inappropriately toward them or made them feel uncomfortable.

    The Legislative Council comprised of House and Senate lawmakers also approved a separate policy on professional conduct. It says any sexual relationship between a legislator and someone under the legislator's supervision is unacceptable.  The votes were unanimous 14-0.

    It also lists as prohibited unprofessional conduct disruptive, threatening or violent behavior and unwanted advances or conduct of a sexual nature that doesn't meet the legal standard of sexual harassment in the sexual and other workplace harassment policy.

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