How Congress Keeps Its Sexual Harassment Hush Money Secret

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How Congress Keeps Its Sexual Harassment Hush Money Secret

Post by Maddog on Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:16 am

Under public pressure, the Office of Compliance, which acts as the House's rough simulacrum of a human resources department, released documents showing it had paid out $17 million since 1997 to settle a variety of workplace claims, including sexual harassment.

The details of those settlements, including their nature, are confidential. Claimants are required to sign a nondisclosure agreement to begin the lengthy mediation process.

Last week Speier introduced legislation that would prohibit Congress from requiring nondisclosure agreements in such situations and would require regular reporting of settlements.

"In 1995, Congress created the Office of Congressional Compliance to protect itself from being exposed, and it has been remarkably successful," Speier said in a statement. "Twenty years later, 260 settlements and more than $15 million have permanently silenced victims of all types of workplace discrimination. Zero tolerance is meaningless unless it is backed up with enforcement and accountability."

"It's clear that our country is at an inflection point with respect to the behavior of powerful men across our society," says Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group that works for government transparency. "Congress itself is neither excluded nor sacrosanct from that reckoning, but continued secrecy will hinder public understanding of how our representatives conduct themselves in office. Ethical standards that include training, oversight, and public disclosure of all past settlements online as open data are in the public interest, and we hope that Congress does so."

Because of the provisions of the ironically named Congressional Accountability Act, settlement payment come from a special Treasury fund that the Office of Compliance draws from as necessary. The offices responsible for the payouts, and the reasons for the settlements, are kept strictly confidential.

In Conyers' case, his office didn't even go through that process, according to the documents obtained by BuzzFeed:


[O]ne of Conyers' former employees was offered a settlement, in exchange for her silence, that would be paid out of Conyers' taxpayer-funded office budget. His office would "rehire" the woman as a "temporary employee" despite her being directed not to come into the office or do any actual work, according to the document. The complainant would receive a total payment of $27,111.75 over the three months, after which point she would be removed from the payroll, according to the document.

http://reason.com/blog/2017/11/21/how-congress-keeps-its-sexual-harassment

Getting a majority of Dems or Reps isn't going to fix this problem, like some people think. Crying or Very sad


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