The 30-year-old worked as a legislative staffer in the Senate Republican office from 2011 to 2013 before she was elected the youngest mayor in the city’s history.
The News 8 Investigators team reported earlier this month that only two written sexual harassment complaints were filed at the State Capitol since 2000.
Several employees reached out anonymously to News 8 detailing their experiences with sexual harassment at the Capitol.
News 8 Investigative Reporter George Colli asked Stewart if she witnessed what those employees allege, that they were bullied by senior legislative caucus staff and told to stay quiet or risk losing their job. Stewart answered, “That’s an accurate statement.”
“I’ve seen and I heard a lot in my time there,” said Stewart, who is exploring a run for Governor. “I think it’s important the rules are looked at and examined, but I don’t believe there have been only two complaints.”
Just prior to News 8’s original investigation detailing the lack of official complaints filed at the State Capitol, legislative leaders called for a full review of all sexual harassment policies and procedures.
Stewart says any changes in culture at the Capitol needs to start with the leadership in each caucus.
“Young women looking to make their mark in their career are forced to outweigh – ‘Is it worth me complaining or do I just sit here and stay quiet and suck it up because I don’t want to lose my job?’” said Stewart. “You have to create a culture and that starts at the top down.”
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano says he’s never seen any bullying and points to changes made to the legislature’s harassment policies in 2014 as evidence of lawmakers taking the issue seriously.
“I can’t speak back to when Erin was here. I wasn’t the leader and the chief of staff [at the time] is not here anymore,” said Sen. Fasano. “We want an open door policy and after anyone makes a complaint, we talk to HR immediately and it’s followed through and we encourage people to do whatever they feel comfortable in doing.”
Related Content: Only 2 Sexual Harassment Complaints at State Capitol since 2000
Last week, Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would push the statute of limitations for sexual harassment and assault in the state to 20 years, strengthen mandatory reporting laws for incidents involving minors and add more sexual harassment training for almost all employees in Connecticut. .
At the press conference, Senate Democratic leader Martin Looney acknowledged there were at least two complaints against a former Democratic Senator that were not included in News 8’s Freedom of Information Act request.
“There were two members of the Senate that had oral complaints made against them,” said Sen. Looney. “It is my understanding that both complaints were handled in accordance with General Assembly policy with complaints made to senior staff and senior counsel.”
Sen. Looney says there have been no public or secret settlements paid out by the legislature because of sexual harassment complaints.