Lawmakers in both parties say they know of members of Congress who have been involved in harassment.
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in both parties said Tuesday that current members of Congress have been involved in sexual harassment and suggested mandatory training for lawmakers and their staffs.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said at a hearing on preventing sexual harassment on Capitol Hill that she was told about a staffer who quit her job after a lawmaker asked her to bring work material to his house, then exposed himself.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said at the same hearing said there are two current members who have been involved in sexual harassment. Neither Comstock nor Speier provided names of the suspected lawmakers.
Stories of sexual harassment and gender hostility are continuing to come to light in various industries, including entertainment and politics.
“There is no place for sexual harassment in our society, period, and especially in the Congress,’’ said Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee.
Sexual harassment is a national problem and “Congress is not immune from this issue,’’ he said.
The House Administration Committee, which issues policies for congressional offices, is considering new policies on sexual harassment, including new training requirements.
Speier, who has talked about her own experience being sexually harassed when she was a congressional staffer, said her office has been flooded with calls since she came forward.
“From comments like ‘Are you going to be a good girl?,’ to harassers exposing their genitals, to victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor, women and men have trusted me with their stories,” she told committee members. “All they asked in return was that we fix our abusive system and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
Harper said victims aren’t always aware of the resources available to them.
Speier has introduced bipartisan legislation that would require mandatory training for her House colleagues and their staffs and plans to introduce another bill that would improve the complaint process.
Last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution requiring senators and their staff to take training to prevent sexual harassment.
Harper, who supports mandatory training, said the House must develop a comprehensive approach to addressing sexual harassment.
He called the hearing the first step in the House review of its policies on sexual harassment.
Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., said the current sexual harassment training, which isn’t mandatory, is underutilized.
He said Congress should follow the private sector and adopt a quality universal policy. He said that would be more effective than the “current patchwork” of policies.
“With a universal policy, no employee would be without a written policy governing their conduct or unaware of their rights,” said Byrne, who practiced employment law in Alabama and advised companies on harassment policies.
“We need to increase member accountability,’’ he said.
Speier said that under current policies, “Congressional employees are, at best, unaware or confused and at worst are utterly betrayed,’’ Speier said.
There is zero accountability and zero transparency,’’ she said. “It’s really no wonder that staffers don’t’’ seek this process at all.
Speier praised the committee for attempting to address what she called a complex and sometimes uncomfortable issue.
Contributing: Associated Press