Oregon State Senator Faces Sexual Harassment Allegations from Colleagues

Oregon state senator Jeff Kruse is the latest powerful male to face sexual harassment allegations.  Several co-workers and professional colleagues, including two fellow state senators, have accused the Republican office holder of sexual harassment. The two senators making the charges are Senators Sara Gelser and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward.

A report issued by an independent investigator appointed by the Oregon Legislature detailed allegations that Kruse subjected two female senators to unwanted touching, groped and gave “lingering hugs” to many woman, and created a “hostile workplace” at the capitol.

The report included video showing Kruse leaning in closely to a colleague and touching her in a Senate committee room. The report also revealed misconduct by Kruse against a House member, a third female senator, two law students who used to work for him, Republican and non-partisan staffers, a former legislative aide and a lobbyist. Those women weren’t named in the report.

One of the law students told the investigator that Kruse called her “little girl” and told her she was “sexy” while at work in the Capitol. She also said that Kruse subjected her to “a lot of hugging” – grabbing and pulling her into a tight hug at least twice a week.

In response, Kruse told investigators his behavior was “instinctual” and hard to change.  “I have no plan to do anything different than what I’m currently doing,” Kruse told his hometown newspaper The News-Review. “We’re still in a formal process here. I have significant issues with the report.”

The four-member Committee on Conduct will consider the investigative report later this month and decide whether Kruse be reprimanded, censured, expelled, or that no action be taken, committee chairman Sen. Mark Hass said.

The investigative report notes that Kruse was reprimanded for some of this behavior in 2016. He was warned to stop hugging females and leaning in too close to them. The report concluded that his behavior escalated last year.

As we’ve seen in recent news stories, Kruse’s response is typical of those offered by the men accused of sexual harassment. Like, most recently, casino magnate Steve Wynn, and White House staffer Rob Porter, Kruse has shown no remorse or sympathy for the women he has harmed. He seems to not even acknowledge the legitimacy of their complaints.

Now many in the Oregon Legislature and around the state are calling for Kruse to resign. And he should. Now. And let’s hope his resignation sets another example for would-be sexual harassers. Also, let’s hope Senators Gelser and Steiner Hayward, and the other women who came forward, set an example for women to stand up for themselves to hold harassers and their enablers accountable.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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