The Louisiana Legislature has taken an important step in approving a statewide anti-sexual harassment policy.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to sign the measure, making it law. He should.

Until now, Louisiana has gone without any sort of statewide policy for workplace behavior. Now, each state and local government agency will be required to implement a sexual harassment policy that includes a way to handle complaints, a prohibition on retribution against those who file complaints and training each year for all workers.

Such policies have been commonplace for years or decades in the private sector. It is long past time the state government got onboard.

The issue has picked up awareness and momentum from high-profile cases of alleged sexual harassment, including several within state government. An audit last month showed Louisiana has spent more than $5 million on settlements and legal fees in harassment lawsuits since 2009. Clearly, there is a problem.

It simply is not enough for Louisiana to leave to chance whether our public workers happen to operate in workplaces that have policies in place or not. The requirement is a good one that should be welcomed by workers and state officials alike.

The training portion of the new requirement will likely go a long way toward preventing the sort of behavior that can harm people in the workplace. And if it doesn’t, every worker should be well aware of how to go about filing a complaint – without fear of retaliation if they file one.

This won’t eliminate the possibility that bad behavior will happen in state offices. But it will equip everyone in those offices to handle that behavior if and when it does take place.

Significantly, too, it will signal to potential abusers or harassers that there is a rising awareness of the issue and a growing willingness to take action to stop it. Similarly, the utter lack of such a policy sent the exact opposite message.

There is no question that this is a great step forward for our state – a step that is overdue but still very much needed.

Now, we have to wait for it to have the desired impact on workplace behavior, resulting in more functional, pleasant environments for our public employees.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.