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House lawmaker accused of bullying must complete ‘remedial’ workplace conduct training


House lawmaker accused of bullying must complete ‘remedial’ workplace conduct training

May 22, 2024 | 6:27 pm ET
By Jerry Cornfield
House lawmaker accused of bullying must complete ‘remedial’ workplace conduct training
Washington State Capitol (Jerry Cornfield/Washington State Standard)

A Washington state lawmaker accused last year of bullying and berating employees has been told she must undergo remedial training on proper workplace conduct before her access to legislative staff is fully restored.

And a second state legislator could face a similar directive in response to an investigation of allegations that she mistreated a legislative assistant in the 2024 session.

Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Gig Harbor, was found in a December report to have violated the House Respectful Workplace policy that bans verbal abuse and bullying. At the time, her direct access to caucus and policy staff was halted after allegations emerged that she retaliated against three witnesses by revealing their names to reporters.

Last week, the bipartisan House Executive Rules Committee denied Caldier’s appeal of the investigative findings and informed her the staff restrictions will remain in place until she undergoes “remedial training in respectful workplace expectations as well as constructive conflict coaching,” said Chief Clerk of the House Bernard Dean.

House lawmaker accused of bullying must complete ‘remedial’ workplace conduct training
Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Gig Harbor. (Legislative Support Services)

Asked whether she’d complete the training, Caldier said Tuesday that she was focused on her re-election campaign and hadn’t given it much thought. “I still have not seen the email that was sent to the press regarding the training,” she said. “I am sure I will learn all about it when I read your article.” Caldier also noted she’s had access to her legislative assistant during the investigations.

She added that she will not appeal findings that she violated House policies by revealing identities of three people interviewed for the December investigation whose names had been redacted. The policy aims to protect against retaliation by assuring anonymity for those who submit a complaint or serve as a witness in an investigation.

First elected in 2014, Caldier represents the 26th Legislative District which encompasses parts of Kitsap and Pierce counties and includes Bremerton, Port Orchard, Purdy and Gig Harbor.

She has said the episode is a byproduct of her disagreement with the former caucus leader, Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, which led her to leave the caucus in the 2023 session. She also said she suffered discrimination when the state – specifically her caucus and the Office of the Chief Clerk – failed to accommodate her disability of declining eyesight. 

In an email Tuesday, Caldier said “there is no point” to appeal any further.

“No legislator has ever survived this ‘investigation’ process because it is not a fair process and [is] designed to punish members by destroying their reputation when leadership has an issue with them,” she wrote.

She said she is hopeful “the public can see through the lies that have been written about me. Sometimes, doing the right thing and standing up for yourself is a more difficult path to take,” she wrote.

‘Direct communicator’

Meanwhile, state Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland, is under duress following the release last week of a 55-page investigation of allegations by a former aide. 

The aide claimed that Morgan, who is Black, yelled at them, told them to trust no one, described the Legislature as a “plantation,” and called people racist. The aide, a person of mixed race, also said Morgan referred to them as “Starboy” and criticized their “proximity to whiteness,” according to the report.

Morgan, who has not decided whether to appeal, could face discipline by the Executive Rules Committee, her caucus, or House administration. She represents the 29th district in Pierce County. It stretches from south Tacoma to Spanaway and is bisected by State Route 7.

House lawmaker accused of bullying must complete ‘remedial’ workplace conduct training
Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland, (Courtesy Morgan campaign)

Dean had already removed Morgan’s legislative assistant and suspended the lawmaker’s access to other administrative support and House Democratic Caucus communications staff. As of Wednesday, there’s been no decision on what must occur before Morgan can seek their services again.

On May 17, Morgan issued a statement through her campaign, in which she didn’t deny the allegations. She said the report acknowledged she is a “direct communicator” and the findings “reflect the challenging nature of the legislative session for new employees.” This was the former aide’s first session as a legislative assistant.

She said she was willing “to address any concerns and improve her communication and management practices.” And she said she is committed to doing whatever is asked of her to have the work place restrictions lifted.

This is the second time Morgan’s behavior has been investigated. Two years ago investigators concluded she engaged in abusive and bullying conduct and retaliated against a policy analyst working for the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force on which she served.