The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries today announced it will enter into mediation with legislative leaders in hopes of settling the agency's findings last week that sexual harassment is pervasive in the Capitol.
"While mediation and related communications are confidential, BOLI has invited attorneys for any aggrieved person to participate in the process, with the goal of finding a satisfactory resolution to the alleged discriminatory practices for all involved," said the agency, which regulates workplaces in Oregon, in a statement.
The issue is complicated by a changing of the guard at BOLI. Former Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who served from 2007 through Jan. 7, brought the complaint against House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), the Legislature's presiding officers. (Many BOLI complaints come from a wronged worker, but in other cases the commissioner bring the complaint, as Avakian did in this case.)
But Avakian left office on Monday after his term expired.
The report Avakian issued Jan. 3 was highly critical and included a conclusion there was "substantial evidence" of sexual harassment over a number of years that leaders had failed to properly address.
BOLI's process then provides for a penalty or remedy phase. In complaints, brought by an outsider, the commissioner decides the remedy but in cases where the commissioner initiates a complaint, the commissioner steps aside in the penalty phase and the deputy commissioner makes a final determination.
In this case, the agency announced earlier this week that phase would be directed by the deputy commissioner, Duke Shepard, because newly sworn-in Commissioner Val Hoyle replaced Avakian as the complainant and couldn't rule on what is now in effect her own complaint.
BOLI hopes to schedule the first mediation session by the end of this month.