Children’s Toy Leads To #MeToo Complaints In Iowa Government

Posted December 14, 2018 by Mary McGinley

Not everyone agrees that jokes and horseplay at work is “harmless” – especially if there are sexual innuendos attached to it. In the era of the #MeToo movement and increased scrutiny regarding workplace sexual harassment, such humor, though it might seem harmless, actually can cause discomfort among employees and is generally not appropriate for the workplace.

Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune reported on a complaint filed in the State of Iowa at the state’s workplace safety agency about jokes of a sexual nature involving a child’s banana toy. The incident was anonymously reported to Governor Kim Reynolds’ office and to Iowa’s Department of Administrative Services which oversees the human resource matters for state employees. The anonymous reporter stated that if the matter was not addressed in a timely fashion, the information surrounding the incident would be released to the media.

Allegations that the toy was used to represent a penis and participants waved it at employees as they passed by in the office. Reynolds’ administration has been committed to providing a harassment-free workplace for all workers within the state of Iowa.

The state of Iowa responded by initiating an investigation into the alleged incidents and concluded with the removal of two top level officials within the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health enforcement unit.

When the investigation concluded in October of this year, Supervisor Deborah Babb retired and OSHA director Jens Nissen, who investigates all workplace deaths and injuries for the agency within Iowa, was fired from his position by Iowa’s Commissioner of Labor Michael Mauro.