Additional Funding, Legislative Measures Recommended to Address Sexual Harassment on Capitol Hill

Additional Funding, Legislative Measures Recommended to Address Sexual Harassment on Capitol Hill

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U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patty Murray (D-WA) wrote to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), urging them to take additional steps to address sexual harassment and workplace misconduct in the United States Congress.

“The reported accounts of misconduct on Capitol Hill necessitate a review of our workplace culture and processes to ensure that equality and justice prevail throughout,” Collins and Murray wrote.

Senators Collins and Murray urged the Senate and Appropriations Committee leaders to provide additional funding to support updated and improved sexual harassment training for legislative branch employees. They also urged the inclusion of legislative measures to improve the ways that congressional offices respond to both the causes and consequences of these incidents.

“On November 9, the Senate passed unanimously a resolution requiring Senators, staff, interns, fellows, and detailees to participate in workplace harassment training, including sexual harassment,” Collins and Murray continued. “This is a welcome first step to reforming the culture on Capitol Hill. It also invites an opportunity to invest in necessary improvements to training modules and to hire staff with expertise in workplace harassment and worker-advocate support. We request that you include sufficient funding to the Office of Compliance (OOC) and other appropriate Senate offices to improve these trainings and supports.”

Senators Collins and Murray also urged Leadership to take additional steps to fully address issues of harassment and misconduct, including implementing, at a minimum, the following common sense reforms that have support on both sides of the aisle:

  • Covering every member of the Congressional community (staff, fellows, interns, pages, and detailees) by the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) and fully informing them about what their rights, protections, and the available procedures are.
  • Providing employees who experience harassment with access to independent confidential resources to advise and assist them through the complaint resolution process; and
  • Reforming the complaint resolution process so that arbitrary time limits and mandatory processes do not discourage reporting.

The complete text of the letter is available here and below.

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December 14, 2017

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Cochran,

and Vice Chairman Leahy:

We write to express our firm commitment to working with you to improve the congressional workplace in light of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the United States Congress. Sexual harassment and workplace misconduct are reprehensible, no matter where they happen. The reported accounts of misconduct on Capitol Hill necessitate a review of our workplace culture and processes to ensure that equality and justice prevail throughout. Given the urgency of this problem, we ask that any continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations bill provide additional funding to support updated and improved training for all legislative branch employees, including members and all staff working in the Capitol complex and state offices. We also urge the inclusion of legislative measures to improve the ways that congressional offices respond to both the causes and consequences of these incidents.

On November 9, the Senate passed unanimously a resolution requiring Senators, staff, interns, fellows, and detailees to participate in workplace harassment training, including sexual harassment. This is a welcome first step to reforming the culture on Capitol Hill. It also invites an opportunity to invest in necessary improvements to training modules and to hire staff with expertise in workplace harassment and worker-advocate support. We request that you include sufficient funding to the Office of Compliance (OOC) and other appropriate Senate offices to improve these trainings and supports.

In 1995, Congress passed the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) to protect the thousands of legislative branch employees dedicated to serving our nation. We recognize that there is a need to reform the aspects of the law that are out of step with best practices and fall short of the expectations for ourselves as public servants. We also commend our colleagues who have proposed reforms aimed at improving current practices.

There are many sensible reforms that can be adopted immediately to improve the processes for victims of sexual harassment or misconduct seeking help. Every member of the Congressional community including staff, fellows, interns, pages, and detailees should be covered by the CAA and fully informed about their rights, protections, and the available procedures. When employees do experience harassment, they should have access to independent confidential resources to advise and assist them through the complaint resolution process. That process should be improved so that arbitrary time limits and mandatory processes, such as required “cooling off” periods, counseling, and mediation, do not discourage reporting. We support these calls for reforms that have been raised by members on both sides of the aisle.

While we believe there are more steps that Congress will need to take to fully address issues of harassment and misconduct, we urge you to include at a minimum these common sense reforms in any forthcoming continuing resolution or omnibus legislation and to provide additional funding to OOC to help prevent harassment from occurring. These measures can better protect those public servants working in Congress each day.

As Senators, we have an obligation to conduct ourselves in accordance with the highest ethical standards and to review our own workplace procedures to ensure that allegations are taken seriously and that individuals are held accountable. We look forward to working with you to enact these and other sensible reforms.

Sincerely,

[The Undersigned]

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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