Ryan: House to man­date sex­ual ha­rass­ment train­ing

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY JULIET LIN­DER­MAN As­so­ci­ated Press

— Speaker Paul Ryan said Tues­day that the House will re­quire anti-ha­rass­ment and anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion train­ing for all mem­bers and their staffs. The an­nounce­ment came just hours af­ter a hear­ing in which two fe­male law­mak­ers spoke about sex­ual mis­con­duct in­volv­ing sit­ting mem­bers of Congress.

“Our goal is not only to raise aware­ness, but also make abun­dantly clear that ha­rass­ment in any form has no place in this in­sti­tu­tion,” said Ryan, R-Wis. “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 pol­icy change will hap­pen through leg­is­la­tion.

The move comes days af­ter the Se­nate unan­i­mously ap­proved a mea­sure re­quir­ing all sen­a­tors, staff and in­terns to be trained on pre­vent­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Dur­ing a House Ad­min­is­tra­tion hear­ing Tues­day on sex­ual ha­rass­ment pre­ven­tion, Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock, R-Va., said she was re­cently told about a staffer who quit her job af­ter a law­maker asked her to bring work ma­te­rial to his house, then ex­posed him­self.

“That kind of sit­u­a­tion, what are we do­ing here for women, right now, who are deal­ing with some­one like that?” Com­stock asked. Com­stock said there should be clearcut rules about the kinds of re­la­tion­ships and be­hav­iors that are off-lim­its and cre­ate a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment. Com­stock said the name of the law­maker she men­tioned wasn’t dis­closed to her.

At the same hear­ing, Rep. Jackie Speier said two cur­rent law­mak­ers have been in­volved in sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

“In fact, there are two mem­bers of Congress, Repub­li­can and Demo­crat, who serve right now who have been sub­ject to re­view, or not been sub­ject to re­view, that have en­gaged in sex­ual ha­rass­ment,” Speier said.

The Demo­crat from Cal­i­for­nia re­cently in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to make train­ing to pre­vent sex­ual ha­rass­ment manda­tory for mem­bers of Congress af­ter shar­ing her own story of be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted by a male chief of staff. Her bill also in­cludes a sur­vey of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in Congress and an over­haul of the pro­cesses by which mem­bers and staffers file ha­rass­ment com­plaints.

The bill gained sup­port from both Dem- ocratic and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., who chairs the House Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mit­tee, said in his open­ing remarks, “I be­lieve we need manda­tory train­ing, and prob­a­bly every­one here would agree.”

Speier said since com­ing for­ward with her story she’s been in­un­dated with phone calls from staffers ea­ger to share their own ac­counts of ha­rass­ment and abuse. A pe­ti­tion call­ing for Congress to make train­ing manda­tory has gained more than 1,500 sig­na­tures from for­mer Hill staffers.

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

One Repub­li­can law­maker, Rod­ney Davis of Illi­nois, said that ad­dress­ing the is­sue of sex­ual ha­rass­ment on the Hill is “long over­due” and that Congress must “lead by ex­am­ple.” 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.”

Glo­ria Lett, coun­sel for the Of­fice of House Em­ploy­ment Coun­sel, replied that such dis­crim­i­na­tion is il­le­gal.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said women are “nowhere near where we should be” in work­places across the coun­try — in­clud­ing the Se­nate.

Ni­cholas Kamm / Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., tes­ti­fied at a House hear­ing that two cur­rent law­mak­ers have been in­volved in sex­ual ha­rass­ment.


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