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Oregon Lawmakers Hire Lawyer To Fight Sexual Harassment Complaint

<p>Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill requiring children to stay in rear-facing car seats until they turn 2. Right now, they can switch directions when they turn 1.</p>

John Rosman

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Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill requiring children to stay in rear-facing car seats until they turn 2. Right now, they can switch directions when they turn 1.

Oregon lawmakers are preparing to defend themselves against accusations that they underplayed reports of sexual harassment at the state Capitol.

On Monday, they voted to retain Portland-based law firm Barran Liebman LLP to fight back against a complaint filed by Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian,  accusing leaders of the Legislature of creating a hostile workplace.

Avakian specifically said Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek ignored complaints of sexual harassment and unwanted touching by now former-Sen. Jeff Kruse until they became public last year.

Kotek told OPB previously she is committed to improving the Legislature’s policies and questioned Avakian’s motivations for filing the complaint.

“I have taken every complaint that has come to me very seriously,” Kotek said. “This is a personal issue for me, not a political one. I want to be sure people feel safe in the Capitol.”

Legislative leaders have asked the Oregon Law Commission to consider how to improve the Capitol’s workplace policies ahead of the 2019 legislative session.

Editor's note: Barran Liebman is an underwriter of OPB.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Lauren Dake is a political reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. Before OPB, Lauren spent nearly a decade working as a print reporter. She’s covered politics and rural issues in Oregon and Washington.