Female lawmaker says inappropriate behavior, comments happen at Capitol Square

Posted at 6:18 PM, Nov 20, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- In her fourth year working on Capitol Square, State Senator Jennifer McClellan's Chief of Staff Abbey Philips said she's never witnessed overt sexual harassment there, however, she said older male legislators occasionally make comments about her appearance that she finds inappropriate.

"'Oh, that red lipstick makes you look really good' or 'oh those shoes oh my goodness those shoes are kind of hot,'" Phillips said.

Her boss, Senator McClellan said she also received inappropriate comments from fellow legislators.

"I was once told I was the Barbie of the House of Delegates and the person meant it as a compliment," McClellan said.

State Senator Jennifer McClellan

And, McClellan said she hears countless stories from other women on Capitol Square.

"I've had some tell me about inappropriate touching or the hand on the knee or the hug that lasts a little too long. I had an intern that was hit on when she was in high school," McClellan said.

House Speaker-Designee Kirk Cox, who is in his 28th year at the General Assembly, said he's never witnessed sexual harassment there himself, but he has heard stories about inappropriate comments and behavior.

"It's gotten better, not good enough," Cox said.

"You shouldn't be bumping against the line once you start down that road then it's just way too easy to cross the line."

With that in mind, and amid reports of sexual harassment that have come to light recently across the country, Cox wrote a letter to the Capitol Square community highlighting that sexual harassment or abuse will not be tolerated.

"I think it's important to take the next step. Probably should have taken the next step a few years ago, but we are where we are… so let's get this done now," Cox said.

Over the past six years, the House of Delegates received two complaints of sexual harassment, according to the Human Resources director for the House of Delegates.

The state Senate has received none, according to the Senate Clerk's Office.