Al Franken Groping Allegations Could Change How Congress Deals With Sexual Misconduct

Elias Hubbard
November 17, 2017

"Abusers and sexual predators have thrived in the shadows in our current system, where all the power is deliberately taken away from the survivor", said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in a press conference on Wednesday as she introduced legislation meant to change the way the government addresses sexual harassment cases. Kirsten Gillibrand of NY, both Democrats, unveiled companion bills in the House and Senate to reform the sexual harassment complaint process on the Hill and boost transparency around the sensitive issue.

Speier made the assertion on "Meet the Press Daily" after testifying in Congress about sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.

"In the last twenty years, there have been 260 settlements at a cost to the taxpayers of this country of $15 million". During her testimony, the Democrat also outlined the lengthy, cumbersome process a victim of sexual harassment now has to undergo if they decide to report the behavior to Congress's Office of Compliance.

Speier said at a Tuesday hearing that two current members of Congress, one Republican and one Democrat, have been accused of sexual harassment.

A staffer from either chamber can file a complaint with the Office of Compliance to begin a 30-day legal counseling period followed by mandatory 30-day mediation and 30-day "cooling off" periods.

"The OOC does not now provide any breakdown for the type of discrimination payments made, the amounts of individual payments, or even the offices that the complaints generate from", the spokesperson said in a statement. Interns and fellows in the Congress do not have access to the process.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who sponsored H.R. 4396, joined Costello and Poliquin in introducing the bill earlier this week.

"These harasser propositions such as, Are you going to be a good girl, to perpetrators exposing their (beep), to victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor", she said.

If the accused is a member of Congress, he or she is represented by lawyers in the Office of House Employment Counsel or the Senate's Chief Counsel for Employment. "All these will be steps in the right direction to deal with what is an antiquated process and, frankly, unacceptable in this day and age".

Minjarez and Koop are asking state leaders to improve reporting practices and update protocols to include mandatory sexual harassment training for all Capitol staff.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan announced Tuesday after Speier's and Rep. Clarification 10:15 a.m. | A spokesperson for Speier said the $15 million figure Speier cited covered all discrimination and harassment claims from fiscal years 1997 to 2016.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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