Congress yet to act on flawed anti-harassment system

Senators in both celebrations are touting their maneuver last week to require sexual harassment training for all participants and aides.

What they don’t mention is that lots of Senate offices currently required training or were moving toward it – and that their vote did nothing at all to reform something for handling problems that critics say deters victims from coming forward.

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Now, some lawmakers are fighting to make sure that the Senate’s unanimous acceptance of mandatory training doesn’t make even more reforms harder by offering political cover to participants who would prefer to go along. Bipartisan talks on an overhaul of the Capitol’s harassment policy, which critics in and out of Congress claim is normally stacked against victims, stay in their early stages.

“It’s a really important dialogue that the united states is having” about harassment, said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who’s waged underdog battles for GOP support to strengthen sexual assault protections in the military and on campus.

“But I also believe it’s the tip of the iceberg,” she said in an interview. “There’s not really a clear acknowledgement about how pervasive that is in society.”

Gillibrand and a small number of other senators are actually vowing to help make the harassment training requirement – that your Property has yet to approve – the first step toward rooting out place of work misconduct found in Congress. And they’re well aware that the problem is delicate for an organization that reflexively protects its.

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Current rules require victims to submit to mediation and counseling before filing a complaint, a process that may stretch on for a few months while they remain at the job with the alleged perpetrator of harassing habit. Gillibrand is working on her private proposal set for launch this week, with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) choosing the lead inside your home, to streamline what harassment victims claim is a demanding and difficult program for handling problems on the Hill.

She’s not by yourself. Aides operating on the issue stated Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a chief writer of the 1995 laws that 1st required Congress to check out federal workplace criteria, has taken a personal interest in a stronger harassment policy. An aide stated Grassley can be examining broader changes to the system for handling harassment problems.

And Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who shepherded the required harassment training plan to its rapid passage last week, is keeping the problem going through her content as best Democrat on the Rules Committee.

“The Senate should continue to examine how harassment claims are taken care of to ensure we support victims in our effort to create clear that harassment of any sort is not and can not be tolerated in the Senate,” Klobuchar said in a statement to POLITICO. “This is simply a first step.”

Klobuchar has formed a bipartisan working group of committee members to help shape a broader proposal that would make filing a state and going through dispute image resolution easier for harassment victims, a Democratic aide said.

The sexual assault allegations which have rocked Roy Moore’s Senate bid may actually have helped speed the evaluate requiring training for aides and senators through the upper chamber. And today some aides privately hope that the Alabama scandal can keep financing momentum to shift the Hill’s harassment policy.

The House will get started its debate on updated workplace misconduct rules at an Administration Committee hearing on Tuesday, with Speier set to testify alongside Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), a former employment attorney.

Speier plans to work with her testimony to describe mandatory training as the “easiest step” for lawmakers to take and “to reiterate that reform to the complaint method is what is absolutely going to change things,” according to a good spokeswoman. A longtime advocate for stronger harassment criteria on the Hill, Speier lately shared her own storyline to getting forcibly kissed by a superior during her years as a congressional aide as the social media-driven movement referred to as #metoo began increasing knowing of the issue.

Gillibrand and Speier’s costs would make sweeping changes to the guidelines that the Hill’s Business office of Compliance currently uses to take care of harassment problems. The legislation would remove the need that victims proceed through mediation before submitting a complaint and make a confidential adviser within the compliance business office to help victims through the procedure.

The Democratic women’s proposal also is likely to require public disclosure of congressional offices that will be the subject of complaints and also have negotiated funds from the fund that the compliance office uses to pay victims, according to Speier’s office. In addition, the bill is set to remove the requirement that harassment victims sign a nondisclosure agreement in order to get started on mediation or get a settlement from the compliance office’s fund, which is purchased by taxpayers.

From fiscal 2012 through February of this year, the compliance office’s fund paid out $2.9 million to stay 69 Hill harassment cases, according to internal documents obtained by POLITICO. However, those settlements go over multiple types of place of work misconduct settlements, and particular data covering the cost of resolving sexual harassment problems are not publicly available.

While the allegations against Moore and accused harassers in Hollywood and the media keep a national spotlight on the problem, Gillibrand, Klobuchar and Speier are optimistic about to be able to seize as soon as to push through further changes. No Republican co-sponsor has however emerged for a broader harassment costs, but Speier’s business office said she is calling Reps. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) and Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), early on backers of her proposal to need harassment training in the House.

“Sexual harassment goes significantly beyond the cases you read in the headlines,” Klobuchar stated. “It’s a widespread issue that influences too many men and women in too many areas, professions and industries – including the United States Congress, where we’ve an obligation to create an example of carry out and guidelines to the united states.”

Gillibrand agreed that “we’ve a lot of work still left to do.”

“No one reform is going to switch everything,” she said, “but we must at least preserve trying.”

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