Conn. at­tor­ney gen­eral can­di­dates dif­fer on Ka­vanaugh nom­i­na­tion

Greenwich Time (Sunday) - - NEWS - By Em­i­lie Mun­son

Moved by her own ex­pe­ri­ence with preg­nancy dis­crim­i­na­tion, Re­pub­li­can Sue Hat­field said she will im­prove the statewide re­port­ing process for vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion, if elected at­tor­ney gen­eral.

But Hat­field as­serts she is the “best can­di­date for at­tor­ney gen­eral” be­cause she also con­sid­ers the rights of the ac­cused, in this case those of Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh. Hat­field be­lieves the jus­tice is in­no­cent un­til proven guilty of the sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions raised by Chris­tine Blasey Ford.

“What’s go­ing on in D.C. has be­come a cir­cus,” said Hat­field in an in­ter­view Sat­ur­day. “As a prose­cu­tor, I 110 per­cent be­lieve that some­body ac­cused has the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence. I feel for Judge Ka­vanaugh’s fam­ily. I also feel for Dr. Ford. As at­tor­ney gen­eral, this will not hap­pen in Con­necti­cut where cases are made po­lit­i­cal.”

Hat­field, a state prose­cu­tor from Pom­fret, is run­ning against Demo­crat Wil­liam Tong for at­tor­ney gen­eral, the of­fice that rep­re­sents the state in all civil mat­ters — in­clud­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims.

“On tem­per­a­ment alone, I think he demon­strated that he is not qual­i­fied,” Tong said Thurs­day.

Tong high­lights his leg­isla­tive record in this area. As chair of the leg­is­la­ture’s Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, he has been a key voice in the pas­sage of two do­mes­tic vi­o­lence laws, one which in­structed law en­force­ment to ar­rest the dom­i­nant ag­gres­sor and one which re­moves guns from abusers. He also helped pass a bill that made on­line ha­rass­ment through “re­venge porn” a felony.

The per­sonal is po­lit­i­cal

Hat­field, mean­while, points to her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: a two and a half year fight against al­leged gen­der and preg­nancy dis­crim­i­na­tion while work­ing as a deputy as­sis­tant state’s at­tor­ney in Tol­land County in 2007.

In a fed­eral law­suit, Hat­field said af­ter she in­formed her su­pe­ri­ors of her preg­nancy in April 2007 she was sub­ject a va­ri­ety of crit­i­cisms from how she hung up her coat in her of­fice to her pen­man­ship. She was ques­tioned in­tru­sively about her plans for preg­nancy leave, evenings and week­ends, Hat­field’s 2009 com­plaint states.

One day her boss “calls me into his of­fice, tells me to close the door and then just pro­ceeds to be­rate me for the course of an hour,” said Hat­field.

Hat­field filed a union griev­ance and com­plaints to the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights and Op­por­tu­ni­ties and Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion. When she ob­tained a new po­si­tion at the Statewide Pros­e­cu­tion Bu­reau, her po­si­tion was switched from full-time to tem­po­rary, a move she viewed as re­tal­i­a­tion, her com­plaint states.

The state’s Di­vi­sion of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, which em­ployed Hat­field, de­nied any vi­o­la­tion of state or fed­eral law or pol­icy. But in Jan­uary 2010, the Di­vi­sion, rep­re­sented by the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, then lead by Richard Blu­men­thal, set­tled with Hat­field for $20,000, court doc­u­ments show.

“I never saw poli­cies put in place that would al­low this never to hap­pen again,” said Hat­field, who is also a reg­is­tered nurse. “I’m ap­palled at how this was han­dled. Sen. Blu­men­thal should have been an ad­vo­cate, but there were no cam­eras on me.”

El­iz­a­beth Ben­ton, a Blu­men­thal spokes­woman, dis­missed Hat­field’s crit­i­cism.

“Sen­a­tor Blu­men­thal has been a long-stand­ing, stead­fast ad­vo­cate for the rights of preg­nant women and work­ing par­ents,” Ben­ton said.

Tong wants the sex­ual ha­rass­ment re­forms Democrats pro­posed ear­lier this year passed, he said. Those in­clude elim­i­nat­ing the statute of lim­i­ta­tions on crim­i­nal sex­ual as­sault charges, in­creas­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment train­ing re­quire­ments at smaller pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies, in­creas­ing the re­sources and en­force­ment pow­ers of the CHRO and ex­tend the time to file a com­plaint. “Strength­en­ing our sex­ual ha­rass­ment pol­icy across state govern­ment is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant,” said Tong.

Hat­field said she would sup­port pol­icy man­dat­ing smaller pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies train their em­ploy­ees on sex­ual ha­rass­ment, if the train­ing was af­ford­able, like a sim­ple on­line course.

An anony­mous sur­vey of over 500 law­mak­ers, lob­by­ists, staff and oth­ers who work at the state Capi­tol found one in five had ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment, but less than 1 per­cent had re­ported their ex­pe­ri­ences. Most re­spon­dents iden­ti­fied their per­pe­tra­tors of sex­ual ha­rass­ment as leg­is­la­tors. Law­mak­ers re­sponded to the sur­vey by up­dat­ing their sex­ual ha­rass­ment pol­icy, which adds new train­ing re­quire­ments and ways vic­tims can re­port ha­rass­ment.

Tong was trou­bled, but not sur­prised, by the sur­vey’s re­sults.

“I’m re­lieved that the sur­vey was taken and we have this in­for­ma­tion,” he said. “Govern­ment is not im­mune from it any more than the pri­vate sec­tor is.”

Hat­field called the sur­vey re­sults “ap­palling.”

“What real­is­ti­cally I end up say­ing hav­ing fought the fight is ‘If you’re not ready to spend two years push­ing back, why come for­ward?’” said Hat­field. “That’s what I don’t want to have hap­pen to any­body else.”

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