Legislature passes first in the nation ban on “pass the harasser” on college campuses

OLYMPIA – The Washington state Legislature passed the first state law in the nation to end “pass the harasser” or “pass the predator” among Washington’s colleges and universities on Monday, March 9. The bill addresses common practices that allow faculty or administrators who were found to have committed sexual misconduct at one institution to move to another without the second employer knowing of the past misconduct.

House Bill 2327, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, requires that colleges and universities include any substantiated findings of sexual misconduct in an employee’s personnel file and disclose those findings when asked by another institution. Colleges and universities must also ask about sexual misconduct findings at other institutions before hiring.

The bill also ends the common practice of an employee accused of sexual misconduct ending the investigation by leaving their job. Colleges and universities must complete all sexual misconduct investigations and cannot use non-disclosure agreements that keep such investigations hidden. These laws will apply to both private and public institutions.

“Students deserve protection from faculty, coaches or administrators who are serial sexual harassers or predators,” said Pollet, who teaches at the University of Washington (UW). “A school should know if someone they are hiring has a history of sexual harassment or assault. It’s time to end pass-the-harasser and protect our students.”

“House Bill 2327 is an important part of building an environment on college campuses where all people can thrive. Over the past few months, I’ve spoken with students, faculty, staff, college administrators, and advocates from survivors’ organizations about how we can best keep students safe. As chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Development committee, I’m committed to making sure that college is a safe place for everyone to learn and grow into their next career steps,” said Senator Emily Randall, D-Gig Harbor, sponsor of the Senate companion.

Last year, the Seattle Times reported that a former top UW athletic executive became a vice-president at a different college despite the university finding a credible allegation of sexual assault. Prior to this legislation, Washington’s universities and colleges lacked a process for finding or disclosing an applicants’ history of sexual misconduct.

“The University of Washington and all of our public higher education institutions worked for months with victims’ advocates, Sen. Randall and me to be the first in the nation to adopt such strong protections,” said Pollet. “Though some believed these institutions would resist, they stepped up. I want to thank them for this incredible effort and willingness to lead the nation.”

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for signature. It received bipartisan support, clearing the Senate with a vote of 35-13, and the House with a final vote of 95-1.