Sec. of State in legal trouble promises sex harassment policy changes, but gives no plan

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - A state leader surrounded in controversy after being named in a sexual harassment lawsuit promised changes to his agency's sexual harassment policy Wednesday, but neither he nor his staff could give specifics on what those changes could be.

Louisiana's Secretary of State Tom Schedler refused to step down from his position after a former employee accused him of making unwanted sexual advances against her for years and abusing his position.

Schedler has not publicly denied the claims brought against him.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, Sen. Sharon Hewitt and Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson all demanded that Schedler resign.

During a Senate and Governmental Committee meeting Wednesday, Carter-Peterson pressed the secretary and his staff about changes made to the agency's sexual harassment policy.

"Do you think there are any revisions that are needed to the policy?" Carter-Peterson, D-New Orleans, asked the Secretary of State's human resource Director Ashley Gautreaux.

Gautreaux replied, "yes ma'am," but she could not give specifics changes being made.

In one exchange, Gautreaux told Carter-Peterson the agency is making "tweaks" to the policy.

But when Carter-Peterson pressed her about that statement, Gautreaux responded, "I don't know them off the top of my head."

Carter-Peterson said she would not "tap dance" around the "climate and circumstances" surrounding Schedler and his office.

Secretary of State employees gave general statements about the policy changes and said the sexual harassment policy is now more detailed than before and that employees take a sexual harassment course online, which they already have done in past years.

The Secretary of State told the committee he had taken the online course.

Schedler's office has not changed its policies on sexual harassment since 2013.

At the hearing, Schedler's employee said the agency was waiting on legislation making its way through the House and Senate before making a final decision on how to move forward.

But Carter-Peterson told the group she believes it should not wait around for lawmakers to address the agency's policy.

With no clear answer from the staff, Schedler stepped into the conversation to explain how his office would get back with the committee.

"We will come back to you by week's end with some recommendations that we are going to be considering and put that in your hands," he told Carter-Peterson.

During the hearing, Schedler said he wants there to be a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that would be the same across the board for all state agencies.

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