Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline

Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline
© Stefani Reynolds

House Administration Chair Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (D-Calif.) shot back at Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerDemocrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America NCAA backs plan to allow college athletes to cash in on name, image and likeness MORE (R-N.C.) over his handling of an inquiry into where the chamber stands on completing its required anti-harassment training. 

In a Monday letter to Lofgren, the North Carolina Republican requested an update on when the workforce rights training, required under a resolution passed last Congress in the wake of the #MeToo movement, will be made available to members and their staff.

Lofgren replied in a letter blasting the congressman — who sits on the committee which oversees the daily operations of Congress —  for having to learn about his grievances through the media instead of hearing of his concerns firsthand.

 "Today, I learned that you have concerns about the status of the Committee on House Administration's work in this Congress with respect to workplace rights training,” Lofgren wrote. “I learned this not from a letter or phone call from you, but from inquiries from a newspaper and a subsequent news story, both of which indicated that you had questions or concerns and that you would send a letter to me about those issues. I would like to take this opportunity to respond and answer your questions, and to address several misconceptions.”

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She told Walker that she is “committed to creating a workforce where everyone is treated fairly and with respect,” and said it would be “inaccurate” to say that members have received no anti-harassment training in the 116th Congress.

Under the resolution, which passed in a voice vote in 2017, members and staff would need to partake in the anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training and “certify completion of such training within 90 days.”

Walker claimed in his letter that the 116th Congress has now passed the 90-day deadline for completing the training, though Lofgren’s office noted to The Hill that the 90-day countdown begins after a resolution is passed, not immediately after a new congress commences.

Lofgren indicated that the delay in implementing the training is due to committee staff developing a new curriculum based on feedback from the last Congress.

According to her letter, the changes being considered include a requirement for the Office of House Employment Counsel to provide the training to lawmakers and the creation of separate training courses for "supervisory and non-supervisory employees."

"It is important to note that in the meantime, both OHEC and the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights continue to offer a range of training resources to Members and staff about workplace rights and responsibilities, including options for both online and in-person training," she continued, adding she believes the bipartisan changes will be approved during the next work period.

“Any statement that Members and staff have not received anti-harassment training in the 116th Congress would be inaccurate,” she said. 

Walker, who thanked Lofgren and Ranking Member Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state The Hill to interview Mnuchin today and many other speakers The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve MORE (R-Ill) for their bipartisan leadership on the issue in his letter, noted Congress has passed its 100-day mark and the training has not been provided.

“In the 115th Congress, we proudly fulfilled these requirements and I am eager to continue this tradition as we transition into the new Congress,” Walker wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.

“Being 100 days into the 116th Congress, I am writing today to request an update on the status of this training program and for a date the House can expect new trainings to be available to Washington, D.C. and District staff and interns.”

The call to comply with the resolution comes in the wake of multiple lawmakers — including former Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), Ruben KihuenRuben Jesus KihuenMembers spar over sexual harassment training deadline Nevada Dem sanctioned for sexual misconduct announces city council bid Dem gains put Sunbelt in play for 2020 MORE(D-Nev.), Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdThe biggest political upsets of the decade Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations MORE (R-Texas) and John ConyersJohn James ConyersFormer impeachment managers clash over surveillance bill VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems release first transcripts from impeachment probe witnesses MORE (D-Mich.), among others — being ousted from their seats or opting not to seek reelection after allegations of sexual misconduct emerged during the last Congress.

-- This post was updated on April 15 at at 9:20 pm.