Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday said that allegations of serial sexual harassment against Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) are “extremely troubling” and reiterated his support for reforming the system available to staff to report complaints.
BuzzFeed reported late Monday night that multiple former staff members allege Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, has repeatedly made sexual advances toward female staff.
Ryan recently directed the House Administration Committee to review Capitol Hill’s policies and procedures regarding workplace harassment and discrimination. He announced after a House Administration Committee hearing last week on the issue that sexual harassment awareness training would be required for all members and staff.
“This report is extremely troubling,” Ryan said in a statement.
“Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review. People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination,” the Speaker added.
BuzzFeed reported that Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former staffer who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”
The settlement of more than $27,000 came from Conyers’s office budget, rather than the special fund operated by the Treasury Department for harassment and discrimination settlements handled by the congressional Office of Compliance.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told BuzzFeed that she was not aware of the settlement.
“The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation that will provide much-needed transparency on these agreements and make other critical reforms,” Pelosi said in the statement. “I strongly support her efforts.”
Under the current process run by the Office of Compliance, victims must undergo months of counseling and mediation with the employing office before filing a complaint. They can either file a complaint in court or seek an administrative hearing that can lead to a monetary settlement.
The bill authored by Speier and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) would make the counseling and mediation optional. Their bill would also require lawmakers accused of harassment to pay back the taxpayers.
The Office of Compliance would further have to publish the names of the offices involved in cases with settlements on its website.
H/T: The Hill