Looks like Congress needs a visit from the sexual harassment Panda…
Joking aside, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Tuesday that there will be a new mandatory anti-harassment and discrimination training for all House members and staff. Ryan’s announcement followed the revelation, made by Rep. Jackie Speier, that the House has paid out $15 million in harassment settlements over more than a decade, though a spokesperson later clarified that figure accounted for payouts related to all types of complaints between 1997 and 2016, the Hill reported.
Ryan said in a statement that the goal is “not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution.” His announcement also followed a morning-long House hearing on sexual harassment where some members of Congress brought up concerns about sexual harassment in the legislative branch and reviewed the institutions in place for reporting and addressing such behavior, according to CNN.
Ryan called the hearing an “important step” in efforts to combat sexual harassment and added, “As we work with the Administration, Ethics, and Rules committees to implement mandatory training, we will continue our review to make sure the right policies and resources are in place to prevent and report harassment.”
The renewed focus on sexual harassment in Congress is part of a broader national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace that has enmeshed many powerful figures in the media and entertainment industries.
Speier also revealed that there were two active sexual harassers still serving in the House, one a Republican and one a Democrat.
The Office of Compliance (OOC) is responsible for handling sexual harassment complaints and settlements and making payments, which come from a special Treasury fund rather than House office funds. One lawmaker even said one unnamed colleague exposed his penis to her.
Speier and three colleagues shared stories of harassment in an interview published a few weeks ago by the AP.
Rep. Bradley Byrne, who practiced employment law before serving in the House, recommended in testimony before the House Administration Committee on Tuesday that lawmakers accused of harassment should personally repay the Treasury for settlements.
Last week, the Senate passed a bill mandating sexual harassment training for lawmakers and their staff.
Let’s see if the House, where the majority of sexual-harassment-related coverage has focused, follows suit.
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