Kirsten Anderson never set out to become an voice for harassment-free workplaces, but life has led her there.
"I couldn't not try to help other people and to change minds about workplace harassment," said Anderson, whose own high-profile sexual harassment case led to the state of Iowa paying her a $1.75 million settlement last fall.
Anderson is the former Iowa Senate Republican communications director who alleged she was fired on May 17, 2013, seven hours after she filed a formal complaint of repeated harassment and retaliatory behavior by staff and lawmakers. A Polk County Jury initially awarded her $2.2 million. She was fired after five years in the job.
The Des Moines wife and mother will discuss the growing issue of harassment in the workplace before a Quad-City audience on Tuesday. She will be the guest speaker at The Truman Fund, a fundraiser for the Iowa House Democrats' campaign. The reception will be from 5:30-8 p.m. at the home of Ken Croken and Kathryn McKnight, 29 Hillcrest Ave., Davenport.
"This is an issue that can't live in the shadows anymore," said Anderson, who a month ago launched her consulting firm Equitas Solutions to educate employers and organizations about ending harassment in the workplace.
Now a registered Democrat again — she switched parties last year at the party's booth at the Iowa State Fair, Anderson said it will be her third Democratic fundraiser in Iowa.
"I want to educate people about what's going on at the (state) capital. Even after everything my case brought to light, they've still got issues," she said.
The Truman Fund is the only state-wide organization directly supporting Democrats running for the Iowa House. The reception will include Iowa Reps. Monica Kurth, District 89; Phyllis Thede, District 93; and Cindy Winckler, District 90; as well as Iowa House candidates Joan Martelia, District 94, and Jean Simpson, District 92.
Asked the message she plans to convey, she said "I hope they start a conversation with someone who isn't necessarily of the same mindset of them ... All it takes is one conversation to change a mind."
With her company in its infancy, Anderson has developed a new approach and training program to help employers end harassment. She said it is an issue "everybody should be talking about. They're going to be on the wrong side of history if they don't talk about it," she said.
Her training, which she call nontraditional, will make workplaces have tough conversations and engage employees to think differently about sexual harassment.
While her own situation began before the #metoo movement, she said that national spotlight has helped others "stand up collectively."
"I want people to recognize it's not a Hollywood movement. We have people all over the country, all walks of life experiencing terrible situations and they shouldn't have to," Anderson said.
As she travels the country speaking on the topic, she said "In every talk I give, I talk about how people can stand up for themselves or support someone who has been in my situation and experienced a harassment situation. Nobody stood up for me, and that was brutal... If you witness an inappropriate situation, say something."
For more information, visit IowaHouseDemocrats.com/Davenport or call Croken at 563-355-1387. Suggested donation is $35 per person.