Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Female Dem says at least two current members engaged in sexual harassment

Female Dem says at least two current members engaged in sexual harassment

"There is no place for sexual harassment in our society, period - and especially in Congress", Harper told fellow members, urging them to use an "even higher standard" for their own behavior and that of their employees.

Two female lawmakers, one Republican and one Democrat, shared stories at a hearing Tuesday about male members of Congress who engaged in sexual harassment, though they declined to name them.

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".

Before Speier spoke, however, Representative Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said a member "decided to expose himself" to a young female aide sent to drop off materials at his home.

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Comstock - who worked on Capitol Hill as a staffer early in her career and served in the Virginia House of Delegates before being elected to represent Northern Virginia's 10th District past year - said Congress needs more training and stronger safeguards in place to ensure women don't have to give up their careers to escape sexually aggressive behavior.

She did not name the lawmakers mentioned in her testimony, citing the non-disclosure agreements she wants to eliminate.

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee, said in his office on November 8, 2017, that the panel will review sexual harassment policies in the House.

Addressing the issue will be complex and "at times uncomfortable", Speier said, as she applauded colleagues from both parties for supporting efforts to mandate sexual harassment training.

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There is now no requirement for sexual harassment training in the House of Representatives, but individual offices may voluntarily have their staffs attend trainings offered by the Office of Compliance. That staffer quit her job, Comstock said.

Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., said the current sexual harassment training, which isn't mandatory, is underutilized. But he expressed concern that the increasing focus on gender hostility in the workplace could create unintended consequences, including "that some offices may just take a short cut and not hire women as a way to avoid these issues". Payouts to the victims were not financed by the people who engaged in sexual harassment but by taxpayers.

She also noted that cases between staff members and lawmakers are "very rare" and that mediation cases are overwhelmingly between two staff members.

Meanwhile, several Democrats are sponsoring legislation that would change the way sexual harassment complaints are handled.

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Speier told CNN's "New Day" earlier Tuesday that current policy dictates that individuals coming forward with harassment complaints have to go through a three-month process. "The victim has no counsel, no support".

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