Blog — Ethics

May 07, 2014

Rep. Speier Fights Sexual Harassment on Capitol Hill

By CREW Staff

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) deserves kudos for recognizing that sexual misconduct isn’t a problem limited to the military and college campuses, it is also an issue in Congress.  Last week, Rep. Speier offered an amendment to a House appropriations bill setting funding levels for Congress — the least contentious of the twelve appropriations bills — to increase funding to combat sexual harassment in the House of Representatives.

The House has suffered a string of workplace scandals, of which the most recent arose from a video of (married) Representative Vance McAllister (R-LA) kissing one of his staff.  (She later quit her job and he announced he would not run again.) Rep. Speier asked her colleagues to increase funding for the Office of Compliance (OOC) by $500,000, or 12 percent, to allow the office to improve sexual harassment training and outreach. 

The tiny Office of Compliance protects and trains the nearly 30,000 congressional employees on matters concerning civil rights, labor, and workplace safety laws.  While the office does not have much real power to assist staff members who are harassed, training supervisors is one way to help reduce inappropriate behavior.

Sadly, fear of limiting future employment opportunities causes many staffers to suffer in silence.  Even if a staff member does complain, punishment often falls to the lethargic Ethics Committee, which rarely stirs itself to action.  CREW publishes an annual profile of the "most corrupt" members of Congress to educate Americans about the actions of their elected representatives.

While Rep. Speier's amendment will not solve the sexual harassment problem on Capitol Hill, it is a positive step in the right direction.  While in the past some might have argued against such increased spending, in an election year in which women’s concerns figure prominently, the amendment was adopted unanimously.  We applaud Rep. Speier for her efforts.

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