State senate investigates harassment claims

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - As the state senate investigates harassment claims against a state senator, a new report shows the state has spent $11 million settling sexual harassment claims, mostly in the executive branch, over the last 30 years.

Florida’s historic capitol building and current state capitol building, in Tallahassee on August 31, 2013.

The harassment payments go back to 1987, when the state legislature security paid $47,000 to an analysts who alleged improper touching. The case became public three years later.

Rick Johnson was the woman's attorney. He still practices in the state capital and expects to see a hundred cases before the year is out.

The only other documented legislative settlement was 20 years ago, when lawmakers paid out $165,000.

State Senator Jack Latvala is currently being investigated for allegedly improperly touching lobbyists and staff members.

Six out of 10 cases the state has settled come from the department of Corrections. The state paid $1.3 million to nurses who filed a class action suit.

Attorney Johnson says when a claim is filed against the state, it fights tooth and nail.

"It undermines their human resources department, which is saying that we don't put up with this and we encourage everybody to report it," he said.

Earlier they year, Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 397, making it easier for sexual harassment to be reported.