Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training

Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training
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Hundreds of former Capitol Hill staffers will call on congressional leaders to require mandatory sexual harassment training for members of Congress as reports of inappropriate and aggressive behavior circulate in political circles around the country. 

A letter circulating through social media networks this week had collected more than 180 signatures of former congressional staffers by Tuesday morning. One signer said those spearheading the letter hoped to gain 300 signatures before it is formally sent to congressional leaders. 

The letter, addressed to Sens. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (R-Ky.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Why we need to build gateway now Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds MORE (D-N.Y.), Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFive takeaways from Trump's budget Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump unveils 2020 budget | Calls for cuts to NIH | Proposes user fees on e-cigs | Azar heads to Capitol to defend blueprint | Key drug price bill gets hearing this week Trump's emergency declaration looms over Pentagon funding fight MORE (R-Ala.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharCNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina Howard Schultz to be featured in Fox News town hall The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms MORE (D-Minn.), House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan joins board of Fox Corporation Bottom Line Paul Ryan says Trump will win reelection because of 'record of accomplishment' MORE (R-Wis.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Reps. Greg Harper (R-Miss.) and Bob BradyRobert (Bob) A. BradyIt's time to defund the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen Philadelphia Dem power broker indicted Americans connect with government at the library – so fix the Federal Depository Library Program MORE (D-Pa.), says Congress has not done enough to end the culture of harassment that is pervasive on the Hill.

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“We believe that Congress’s policies for preventing sexual harassment and adjudicating complaints of harassment are inadequate and need reform,” the letter says. “Members of Congress and Chiefs of Staff should be made aware of their responsibility for preventing and reporting cases of sexual harassment and the [Office of Compliance] should have the authority to investigate complaints of abuse or harassment.”

Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, where Klobuchar serves as the ranking Democrat. Harper runs the House Administration Committee, where Brady is the top Democrat.

The letter is being circulated by Travis Moore, a former legislative director for former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) who now runs the San Francisco-based firm TechCongress. 

“Capitol Hill is a very different work environment from anywhere else in America. Each office has its own set of office policies, and varying degrees of following through on enforcing any of them,” said Mara Sloan, a former Hill staffer who now works at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “For years, bad behavior has been ignored and accepted. I signed this letter to add to the growing collective voice that is saying we will not stand for business as usual anymore.”

Under current rules, congressional staffers who experience harassment may report violations to the Office of Compliance (OOC). But those rules require someone to wait 90 days after harassment occurs before filing a complaint. Anyone reporting harassment must undergo 30 days of mandatory counseling and 30 days of mediation before they are permitted to pursue legal action.

The letter asks the House and Senate to require mandatory harassment training, to make counseling and mediation voluntary for those who want to file a complaint with OOC and for Congress to survey its staff to assess just how much harassment goes on within congressional offices.

Four lawmakers last week told the Associated Press they had experienced sexual harassment, including unwanted advances, during their time on Capitol Hill. The letter cites a 2016 survey by CQ/Roll Call that found 40 percent of women on Capitol Hill agreed that harassment is a problem in the halls of Congress.

Last weekend, Pelosi told the AP that Congress needs to change its system of reporting and combatting harassment. Ryan urged members to undergo sexual harassment awareness training and to mandate such training for their staff. 

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Howard Schultz to be featured in Fox News town hall MORE (D-N.Y.) has filed legislation to streamline harassment complaints. 

“We must ensure that this institution handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers,” Gillibrand said in a statement last week.