Washington State

House of Representatives

Office of Program Research



State Government & Tribal Relations Committee

HB 2018

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

Brief Description: Concerning harassment and discrimination by legislators and legislative branch employees.

Sponsors: Representatives Morgan, Jinkins, Harris, Bergquist, Appleton, Cody, Tharinger, Pollet, Fey, Tarleton, Goodman, Pettigrew, Doglio, Senn, Lovick, Dolan, Kilduff, Ryu, Thai, Stanford, Lekanoff, Wylie, Slatter, Hansen, Shewmake, Robinson, Chapman, Santos, Walen, Chopp, Fitzgibbon, Hudgins, Leavitt, Macri, Valdez, Irwin, Reeves, Pellicciotti, Frame and Ormsby.

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Makes it a violation of the Ethics in Public Service Act for legislators or legislative branch employees to harass or discriminate against coworkers and people with whom they interact on state property or on official state business.

Hearing Date: 2/20/19

Staff: Jason Zolle (786-7124).


The Ethics in Public Service Act (Ethics Act) prohibits state officers and state employees from using their public employment for personal gain or private advantage, or creating the appearance of such impropriety. Some prohibited activities include:

The Ethics Act is enforced by the state ethics boards. Any person may initiate a complaint, and state employees who file complaints have whistleblower protections. Each branch of government has its own board that investigates, conducts hearings, and—if necessary—issues civil sanctions for its respective employees' violations of these ethics rules. The Attorney General may investigate persons not under the jurisdiction of an ethics board who were involved in unlawful transactions.

In January 2019 the Legislative Ethics Board issued an opinion that concluded that engaging in inappropriate and harassing communications with a staff person does not constitute using one's position to secure special privileges under the Ethics Act.

State agencies are required to develop and disseminate their own policies to define and prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Agencies must also include procedures that describe how the agency will address concerns, including appropriate sanctions and disciplinary action. Employees must also receive training and education to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment. Although the Legislature is not subject to that requirement, each chamber has a policy for respectful or appropriate workplace behavior that prohibits discrimination and harassment based on a person's protected status, abusive or offensive behavior and bullying regardless of the basis for the conduct, and retaliation.

Summary of Bill:

A new section is added to the Ethics Act to prohibit legislators and legislative branch employees from unlawfully harassing or discriminating against other legislative branch employees or people with whom they interact on state property or on official state business.

Unlawful harassment is defined as an intentional act that harms a person or damages their property, substantially interferes with their work, creates an intimidating or threatening environment, disrupts the orderly operation of the workplace, or constitutes sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual conduct or requests to which submission is required to obtain employment, that factor into decisions affecting an individual's employment, that have the purpose or effect of interfering with a person's work performance, or that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Unlawful discrimination is defined as discrimination on the basis of:

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Not requested.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.