Local News

N.C. Rushing to Protect Workers from Sexual Harassment

Posted June 16, 1998

— The State of North Carolina does not currently protect its workers from sexual harassment. That's a lesson one woman learned the hard way when she tried to file a complaint against a co-worker and ended up losing her job.

Now state lawmakers are pushing a bill through the legislature to protect her and future victims of sexual harassment.

Many lawmakers were enraged when they found out that the state does not protect its own employees from sexual harassment. N.C. has a policy against sexual harassment, but it has no legal jurisdiction to deal with it when it does happen. Lawmakers have now come up with a new bill that aims to protect more people from sexual harassment.

"The number of cases of sexual harassment that come across my desk are really quite alarming," says Carolyn Russell (R, Wayne County). "And most of those involve situations where women, some are men have to have their job, they have tried going through appropriate channels and are having to put up with very unpleasant things in the workplace."

Lawmakers are reacting to a recent case at the N.C. Department of Correction. The state personnel commission agreed that Pamela Robinson, a state employee, had been sexually harassed, but her superiors had no jurisdiction to do anything about it.

Representative Leo Daughtry says lawmakers are dumbfounded by the Robinson case and want to make amends.

"We think it's important to not only let people know that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, but also to protect Miss Robinson who has gone through a difficult time," Daughtry said.

"You had a woman who was clearly put in a hostile work environment, clearly she lost her job because of that, but the state personnel commission was not allowed to take action on it. I was very excited to see us move that quickly," said Rep. Sam Ellis (R, Wake County).

Lawmakers did move quickly. News about the Robinson case surfaced less than two weeks ago, yet House Bill 78 is expected to come up for a vote in the House sometime this week, or early next week.

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