The position of Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for Mass. House is vacant for 15 months

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It has left House staff wondering who they can go to when they need to privately report a case of harassment and wondering if creating the role was just an empty gesture.

Ten current and former House staff, most of whom spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal, told The Globe they believed the unfilled role signaled a lack of commitment to workplace safety at the House. from House leaders, and alleged that a self-assessment McLafferty conducted regarding staff compensation and job descriptions was never completed or discussed after he left the House.

Ana Vivas, spokeswoman for House Speaker Ronald Mariano, said the House’s self-assessment of salary practices has effectively been completed and that the House is “currently engaging with outside experts to develop a plan to address any pay gap”.

She did not shed light on a timeline for hiring McLafferty’s replacement, but said “the House intends to hire a full-time EEO office.[r] as soon as possible.”

The more than a year delay does not inspire confidence, current and former employees say.

“It shows me that House leadership is not seriously invested or committed to the safety of its staff,” said Nicole Eigbrett, a community organizer who worked as a legislative aide from 2017 to 2020. fairness is secondary.”

The focus on pay and treatment of staff at Beacon Hill has come under renewed scrutiny after a pay study commissioned by the Senate, but never publicly released, criticized the practices of hiring and remuneration of the chamber, concluding that the approach “may be perceived as unfair” and may lead to “problematic staff turnover”.

The Globe obtained a copy of the report, which was produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

At the House, McLafferty was tasked with conducting annual trainings, developing written policies and procedures for filing complaints, and creating a process for auditing House offices. The job posting for the position required applicants to have a decade of human resources or legal experience.

In an email to House staff and members announcing his resignation in November 2020, McLafferty said he had no intention of leaving the House any time soon, but that the new job, working for the Commonwealth Care Alliance, a healthcare system, “was just too appealing for me to ignore.

When he quit his job, McLafferty earned a base salary of $133,846 and received buyout pay of nearly $4,000 in unused sick and vacation days, according to payroll records from the State.

“Through the leadership of the Speaker and his executive team, much has been done to strengthen the human resources infrastructure of the House and create a framework that strives to provide all Members and staff with a respectful workplace. “, he wrote in his departure email.

According to current and former staff members interviewed by the Globe, McLafferty conducted training on sexual harassment and ethics, met with staff in small groups when requested and ‘filled in the gaps’ left by the resources team. human of the House. Most said they believed his hiring symbolized a turning point in the House’s commitment to fighting a toxic culture of harassment and sexual misconduct that also permeated the Senate.

House rules allow the House attorney to contract with a temporary agent to perform the duties during a vacancy, although spokespersons for the Speaker did not respond to questions about whether there is or had a temporary employee fulfilling this role.

A house helper who has worked in the chamber since 2020 said that by not replacing McLafferty or communicating other ways to address these issues, “staff feel disposable”.

“That’s the bottom line,” she said.

A legislative aide who has worked at the State House since 2019 said that without a designated person to talk to confidentially about harassment or discrimination, it’s “scary”.

“As someone who loves my job, I wouldn’t want to lose my job because I talked about someone,” said the aide, who asked to remain anonymous.

Some staff, however, say that while replacing McLafferty would show a commitment to staff safety, it would not necessarily solve all the problems House staff are facing. Some staff members did not view him as a truly independent figure, and they believe that members and staff would be better served by someone who worked outside of State House.

Under House Rules, the Equal Employment Ops Officer is appointed by the Chair of the Rules Committee and can be fired if House Counsel and the Director of Human Resources discover wrongdoing. If so, the officer’s dismissal must pass by a majority vote of the rules committee or a roll-call vote of all representatives.

“I think what would benefit the staff and minimize that fear and that culture is the creation of an ombudsman’s office that is truly independent of the leadership of the House or the Senate,” said Eigbrett, the former member of the House staff.

There is no office that handles complaints from both houses, and staff say systemic issues at the State House can transcend the role of one person or office. A start, some say, would be better communication about what House leaders are doing to address harassment or discrimination.

“I don’t think one staff role will solve everything,” said Shannon Alessandroni, who worked as a housekeeper from January 2019 to September 2021. “The issues are so interconnected that it’s hard to say what They may be working on this very diligently, but no one knows.


Samantha J. Gross can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.


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