Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, R, says the increasing costs associated with harassment and discrimination payouts made by the state are not sustainable. An annual report shows the state paid more than $8 million in 2017 in such claims. The financial burden has prompted Hawley to work with the Women’s Foundation to review of policies used within the state’s agencies that address such illegal behavior.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

“While we will litigate to the fullest extent and do our job to try and minimize the taxpayers’ liability, we also have to make sure that we’re addressing the drivers of this liability in the first place. Any change that reduces discrimination and harassment can only result in positive change,” he says. “The news from across the country these past few months has demonstrated a desperate need for meaningful change in the workplace.”

During a Tuesday press conference in Jefferson City, Hawley says 100 or more harassment and discrimination cases are pending against the state.

“A culture of discrimination and harassment has been allowed to fester and this has been the result of many years of neglect perhaps or other actions that should have been taken that have not been,” he says.

The review will include:
*Whether policies provide specific, predictable, and prompt consequences for employees found to have engaged in harassment, discrimination or retaliation.

*If victims have channels to submit anonymous complaints to ease possible concerns about retaliation.

*Whether policies clearly define harassment, discrimination, and retaliation and if they provide concrete examples of prohibited conduct.

*If policies provide strong checks to prevent retaliation against those who report possible harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.

*If policies provide regular review and updating of employment policies.

*Whether agencies that employ interns have policies that specifically address issues relating to employee conduct toward interns.

Hawley says his office’s review will identify best practices based on successful approaches taken in the public and private sectors, and it will use these best practices to provide feedback to government entities about their existing policies.