Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

US House to Adopt Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training for Members, Staffs

US House to Adopt Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training for Members, Staffs

"And then they have to go through a one-month "cooling off" period, all the while they are still required to work in that office that was a hostile work environment", she said.

Shortly after the hearing, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the House will do the same - requiring anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for members of Congress and staff.

House lawmakers on Tuesday will review the chamber's sexual harassment policies in the wake of sweeping allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment that have rocked powerful institutions and industries across the country.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told a House panel on Tuesday that at least two current members of Congress have engaged in sexual harassment.

"In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now who serve, who have been subject to review or have not been subject to review, but have engaged in sexual harassment", Speier said in her testimony before the House Administration Committee, which held a hearing on sexual harassment in Congress Tuesday morning.

"What are we doing here for women right now who are dealing with somebody like that?"

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.

Speier, who shared on Twitter her story of being harassed while she was a congressional staff member, is leading a bipartisan push for stricter House rules on harassment.

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The staffer subsequently quit, Comstock said.

Later this week, Speier will also introduce legislation to overhaul the process that victims of harassment undergo when they file complaints to the Office of Compliance, which she has called "toothless" and says is created to protect harassers and not the harassed.

Office of Compliance staff who testified before the committee said mandatory in-person training would be a good first step toward preventing harassment.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (D-Va.) said the U.S. House should consider a prohibition on members of Congress having sexual relationships with their own staffers.

Speier has proposed mandating harassment training, instituting biannual surveys to address the scope of the problem on Capitol Hill and reforming the "broken" reporting process, which she described as slow and ineffective.

One lawmaker, Republican Rodney Davis of IL, said that some female staffers in his office anxious that "some offices might take a shortcut and not hire women as a way to avoid these issues".

Interns and fellows do not have access to the process, she noted. "By the way. the general counsel of the House is representing the harasser". The House is expected to follow suit but has yet to make the shift, and Speier called for a sweeping overhaul of a system that can force harassment victims to wait for months, and undergo mandatory mediation, before filing a complaint. "But mandatory training is one very important component of trying to stop this".

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