Washington, D.C. – Citing the recent controversy over a married House Republican who was caught on video kissing one of his staffers, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier wants members of the House to undergo mandatory sexual harassment training.
“This is the House of Representatives, not a frat house,” Speier said in a statement. “It is time for all of us to get trained – elected officials and their staffs – to recognize what sexual harassment is, and how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.”
Speier said sexual harassment in the halls of Congress is not new, but two recent events inspired her to introduce legislation that will require members of the House to undergo annual sexual harassment training.
One if the incidents involved freshman Representative Vance McAllister (R.-LA) who was caught on video embracing and kissing one of his aides despite the fact he is married. The video of McAllister surfaced earlier this week and although the staffer has been fired, McAllister refuses to resign. House Republicans have come to his defense
Speier also remarked on the case of former San Diego Mayor, Bob Filner, who was accused of sexually harassing dozens of women. Prior to becoming mayor, Filner held a seat in the House for 10 terms, and Speier believes he got away with sexual harassment during his tenure.
“The fact none of the victims ever reported shows that we have a problem here in the House,” Speier said.
Rep. Speier’s office explained to Politico, the training would include examples of sexual harassment so that lawmakers can easily identify sexually inappropriate behavior, adding the training would be similar to that of the private sector. Speier would also like to see more consistent sexual harassment policies for all of Congress.
The Senate requires training for new employees, but the House has no such requirement. Employees are given handbooks that cover sexual harassment, but there are no formal training requirements, according to the Washington Post. Training is better way to help people identify what comments or behaviors can be considered sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment training is mandatory for executive branch agencies, however there is currently no such requirement for the legislative branches, which as MSNBC pointed out is the same body that tried to impeach former President Bill Clinton for an inappropriate relationship with one of his staffers.
Complaints of sexual harassment can be addressed with the Office of Compliance, but many Congressional aides are unaware of its existence, according to Politico.
And like in the private sector, Congressional staffers who are sexually harassed are afraid to come forward with allegations because they believe there will be repercussions. Sexual harassment attorneys frequently represent clients who have lost their jobs or are otherwise retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment.
Speier has also been behind the push to overhaul sexual assault and harassment policies in the military and requires all of her employees to have sensitivity and sexual harassment training.
Thus far, there has no pushback against Speier’s proposal.