BOSTON (CBS) — A Massachusetts state representative who says she suffered sexual harassment in 2011 as a Beacon Hill aide is pushing for more changes to state law.
State Rep. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) wants to end non-disclosure agreements and settlements that can be used to keep victims of harassment at the State House from speaking publicly about their experiences.
DiZoglio was a 26-year-old aide at Republican State Rep. Paul Adams, of Andover, when false rumors emerged of inappropriate conduct between her and State Rep. Mark Cusack, of Braintree, who was also 26 at the time.
Even after the House Speaker’s office determined that those rumors were unsubstantiated, DiZoglio says she experienced harassment, including lewd comments and propositions.
When she went to Adams to address those complaints, she says he dismissed her.
“I was actually dismissed from my position due to all of the issues pertaining to the false rumors that surrounded that incident,” DiZoglio told WBZ’s Paula Ebben and Liam Martin.
DiZoglio says that when she then went to Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office to complain about the treatment, she was eventually offered a six-week severance payment but had to sign a non-disparagement agreement as part of the deal.
“These documents are used very often by people in power,” DiZoglio said, “to hide assault, to hide harassment … They empower the perpetrator and allow them to very easily move from victim to victim.”
DeLeo, in a statement to WBZ, confirmed the severance package but said he was unaware at the time about the harassment DiZoglio had experienced.
The state legislature, with support from DeLeo, passed a bill last week to improve the treatment of sexual harassment victims at the State House. It, among other things, more broadly defines harassment in state code; establishes a more formal human resources department at the State House; and creates a reporting process for sexual harassment.
DiZoglio praised her colleagues for that work but said more should be done.
“We did pass an amendment that did say the only time that a non-disclosure agreement could be used if it’s requested by the victim, and that’s tremendous,” she told Ebben and Martin. “However, we need to look at the use of taxpayer dollars as it pertains to being able to protect the misdeeds of politicians and their staff.”