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Oregon Legislature set to pick Vermont attorney to handle workplace harassment complaints, training

  A Pride flag, Oregon flag and U.S. flag rest on a desk in the Oregon Capitol.
Ron Cooper
Oregon Capital Chronicle
A Pride flag, Oregon flag and U.S. flag rest on a desk in the Oregon Capitol.

Oregon legislators have tapped a Vermont human rights attorney to handle workplace harassment complaints and training at the state Capitol, almost two years after the position created in the wake of sexual harassment scandals went vacant.

During a brief committee meeting on Monday, Lawmakers on the Joint Conduct Committee unanimously approved a resolution appointing Bor Yang, executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, as the new legislative equity officer. The full House and Senate must approve the resolution before Yang is hired.

Lawmakers kept Yang’s identity secret as long as possible, only posting her name in an amendment four hours before the committee meeting started. Rep. Kevin Mannix, a Salem Republican and co-chair of the committee, said they were required to make the name public four hours ahead of time.

“Already I’ve seen one media outlet that’s gathered information and circulated their own interpretation,” Mannix said.

Both the Capital Chronicle and Oregon Public Broadcasting published articles identifying Yang before the meeting.

Yang declined to comment until her job offer is official. She has worked at the Vermont commission since 2015, as an administrative law examiner investigating alleged employment and housing discrimination before taking over as executive director in 2019.

She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a law degree from the University of Minnesota and previously worked as an attorney in Minnesota.

Mannix said the committee’s four co-chairs interviewed “several” candidates and selected three finalists for interviews in Salem. The co-chairs unanimously picked Yang, he said.

Yang won’t be able to start until after the end of the legislative session, Mannix said.

He and Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, declined after the meeting to share a salary range for Yang, saying they’ll let the Capitol’s human resources team work out details.

After the vote, House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, praised Yang as a “qualified and professional candidate” in a statement.

Lawmakers created the legislative equity office in 2019, as part of a $1.1 million settlement agreement with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries over complaints that sexual harassment made the Capitol a hostile workplace for interns, legislative staff, lawmakers and lobbyists.

But the office has been troubled from the start. The first person who took the job on a temporary basis to set up the office, Jackie Sandmeyer, declined to seek a permanent position.

Her successor, Nate Monson, worked for the Legislature for just 64 days in 2021, before resigning under pressure. Monson last year sued half a dozen current or former state lawmakers and several state employees, alleging that the Legislature retaliated against him for raising concerns about how the body was handling harassment complaints.

That lawsuit has moved to federal court in Eugene, where an April 20 filing from attorneys representing both parties indicates that they hope to reach a settlement.

The Oregon Capital Chronicle is a professional, nonprofit news organization. We are an affiliate of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Capital Chronicle retains full editorial independence, meaning decisions about news and coverage are made by Oregonians for Oregonians.