Illustration of Kirsten Anderson (l) and Sen. Bill Dix. — illustration by Blair Gauntt.
On Tuesday, a Des Moines jury awarded $2.2 million in damages to Kirsten Anderson, after finding the Iowa Senate Republican caucus violated laws against workplace sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Anderson, who was the communications director for the Senate Republican caucus, was fired in May 2013, just hours after she filed a complaint about the Republican caucus fostering a toxic workplace environment filled with sexual harassment and racist comments.
“The verdict sends a message to the Statehouse that this kind of behavior is not acceptable, that it’s ongoing and it needs to stop and change,” Anderson told reporters following the verdict.
The current Republican leader in the Senate didn’t get that message. Sen. Bill Dix chose to blame Anderson instead. “I am disappointed in the verdict announced this afternoon. Kirsten Anderson was terminated only for her poor work product and absolutely no other reason,” Dix said in a written statement.
Dix also blamed fellow Senate Republicans, but shied away from using any names. “The atmosphere prior to my leadership was lacking in professionalism and appropriate behavior.”
Dix, who has been in the Senate since 2011, did not mention in his statement what, if anything, he did to address that unprofessional and inappropriate behavior before he became leader of his caucus in 2013.
But he did assure Iowans that things have changed: “The Senate Republican Caucus is now a safe environment and there is no tolerance for any and all types of harassment.”
There is, however, still tolerance for Jim Friedrich, a senior analyst for the Republican caucus. Friedrich featured prominently in some of the trial’s more colorful moments. Friedrich was a fountain of racial slurs, unwanted sexual comments and inappropriate behavior, according to testimony.
“Sometimes we would even yell — I mean really yell — at him to stop,” Anderson testified.
Friedrich still works for the Republican caucus. Dix did not mention that in his statement.