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Training to prevent harassment held at Colorado Capitol

While not all of Colorado's state legislators attended, many did - even though the training was not mandatory.

Throughout 2018, several Colorado lawmakers were accused of crossing boundaries - be they harassment or using the wrong bathroom - and officials on Tuesday held an optional seminar to help those at the state Capitol understand what constitutes harassment.

For Ben FitzSimons, the legislative human resources administrator at the Capitol, that meant starting with the basics. The first bullet point on one of the first slides of his PowerPoint lets everyone in attendance know that "Harassment = bad".

Eventually, FitzSimons showed a video starring David Schwimmer to show just how insidious harassment at work can be. Here's the link to the video - warning: it may be triggering for some people. 

The training was not mandatory and two state Senators decided not to attend. 9NEWS spoke to both Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who gave varying reasons for not attending.

Coram said it was hinted to him the training was mandatory and said he didn't like being bullied. 

"It's my ninth year," he said. "I don't think, in my eight years previous, there's been anyone that stood up for women and minorities and those that have been abused more than I have. I don't allow myself to be painted into a corner so that I'm afraid to be friends with someone."

Credit: KUSA
The exterior of the Colorado State Capitol building.

Hill, on the other hand, took a different tack, saying the training was "sanctimonious hypocrisy." 

"The Senate Leadership illegally fired out Senate secretary for taking a stand against sexual harassment and now they want to lecture me?" he asked.

It's not the first time staffers have held workplace harassment training. The training usually focuses on definitions and specific laws (those things were included in this training), but Sen. Faith Winters said this one was better than that.

"This was interactive," she told 9NEWS. "It focused on behavior and it actually talked about culture. One training is not going to change culture but this was a big step forward compared to other trainings we've had."

Winter added that she was disappointed some of her colleagues chose not to attend.

Last year, she accused former state Rep. Steve Lebsock of lewd advances and he was then booted from the lower chamber. Winter told 9NEWS she thinks the culture at the Capitol is improving.

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