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New Bill Makes Congress Members Responsible for Sexual Harassment Settlements

New Bill Makes Congress Members Responsible for Sexual Harassment Settlements

“…it’s something the taxpayers should never have to shell out money for.”

In December 2017, The Washington Post reported how the Office of Compliance for Congress paid over $17 million for 264 settlements and awards over various violations, including sexual harassment.

Now Congress has agreed on a bill that members of Congress will be responsible for their own settlements instead of the tax payer. As of now, “settlements are paid through taxpayer-funded accounts members use to pay for office salaries and expenses.”

From The Wall Street Journal:

The legislation would hold members of Congress personally liable for awards and settlements that stem from acts of harassment and related retaliation they personally commit. There would also be a preliminary review of the merits of the claim by a hearing officer. Those elements, some of which already apply to House members, would also apply to members who have left Congress.

“We are shifting the balance of power to more clearly protect the victim and create a more level operating place,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.), who has been one of the biggest advocates for the reforms on Capitol Hill.

The bill leaves out some provisions sought by Republicans and Democrats in the House, including one that would hold members personally liable for discrimination in their offices. House lawmakers plan to take up that issue and others in the next Congress, but lawmakers of both parties cheered the compromise brokered Wednesday.

“This will show that, you do something that you shouldn’t do and it’s a career ender,” said Rep. Gregg Harper, a Mississippi Republican who was one of the key architects of the compromise. “And it’s something the taxpayers should never have to shell out money for.”

Both sides want to get this done with by the end of the year. If both chambers can agree on a bill then it will land on President Donald Trump’s desk in a few weeks. He is expected to sign it.

The House bill wants to make “members liable for all settlements” while the Senate bill includes “caps on how much members would have to pay out of their own pockets.” Blunt explained that “there would be no cap when cases end in settlements,” but only “where a court assesses damages.”

The Treasury Department will pay the victim right away, but then the member of Congress will repay the government on a schedule.

Story after story of sexual harassment and assault have come out since last year like those against former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX).

This is an excellent first step, but more changes have to come out of this. My blog about the WaPo report detailed how the system consistently works against the victim:

Last month, BuzzFeed reported that Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal claim with a former female employee who claimed he fired her after she refused his sexual advances. The article also contained the grueling process the victims must go through.

Without a human resources department, an employee must report sexual harassment to the Office of Compliance within 180 days. This will lead “to a lengthy process involves counseling, mediation, and requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a complaint can go forward.”

Once that ends, the employee may opt to take the case to federal district court or it can go to “an administrative hearing, after which a negotiation and settlement may follow.”

Matthew Peterson, the law clerk that represented the woman and “listed as a signatory,” also spoke to BuzzFeed:

The process was “disgusting,” said Matthew Peterson, who worked as a law clerk representing the complainant, and who listed as a signatory to some of the documents.

“It is a designed cover-up,” said Peterson, who declined to discuss details of the case but agreed to characterize it in general terms. “You feel like they were betrayed by their government just for coming forward. It’s like being abused twice.”

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Comments

How timely…. but if the costs are shifted to the congress-critters does this mean any settlement is a “campaign contribution”?

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to alaskabob. | December 13, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    To quote Bob the Cat, “Aaaaack!”

    I don’t think so.

    About time we taxpayers stopped paying for the Democrat Party’s Non-Stop Sex Orgies!!!!!!!

Really all depends.

If its an NDA that covers consensual sex then there is no case.

not only should they pay, but the bill should stipulate that they get kicked out of office

“The Treasury Department will pay the victim right away, but then the member of Congress will repay the government on a schedule.”

This gives congressmen an advantage people in the private sector don’t have. A complainant almost always wants cash up front and is much more likely to settle with cash up front. So, congressmen make settling a case much easier for themselves by making the rest of us loan them money for it. In the private sector, unless your company pays, you have to pony up your own money and if you don’t have a liquid amount available up front, settling is harder.

Make the S.O.B.s pay their own money, up front. Make them live the way the rest of us do.

“…the Office of Compliance for Congress paid over $17 million for 264 settlements…”

Gee, that sounds suspiciously like a campaign contribution designed to influence the outcome of an election.

The weak link in this chain is right here: “The Treasury Department will pay the victim right away, but then the member of Congress will repay the government on a schedule.”

Uh huh. Sure. Unless it has the punitive power of an IRS lien on all their wealth, this is BS. These lying crap weasels won’t do anything to back themselves into a corner. There’s always an escape hatch.

The Mike Pence Method is not looking so bad now that the slush fund get out of jail free method is gone.

Name them, shame them, make them pay

No special rules for them vs us

According to Rush, they have already paid out 268 settlements from this fund. This is worse than what they are accusing Trump of. Why are his NDAs a crime and these aren’t? At least Trump paid out of his own pocket. The Congress critters paid with taxpayer money.

Trump brought this up today. I hope he keeps pounding away on this.

The Office of Compliance was set up to, as in the old joke, not to require the exhaustion of Administrative Remedies but to ensure the exhaustion of litigants if they went to Court; it was intended to protect Members of Congress and their staff.

1. Most of the settlements are based on claims of racial discrimination, not sex. Is the new Bill based on the premise that racial discrimination is not as important as sexual harassment, so Congresspersons can continue to force taxpayers to pay for their racism?

2. Why would any elected official support not being personally liable for racial or other discrimination (like religion, gender, disability, etc.)? Maybe some discrimination is more important than others?

3. Everybody should understand that all of these bureaucratic efforts are designed to ensure Congressional employees have to follow onerous administrative procedures instead of suing the lawbreaking Congresspersons or filing a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act – it’s all smoke and mirrors.

You mean they have been accepting illegal campaign funds for 20 years?

Nothing like a little sunlight to make the roaches scatter.

Oh please, yes. Shine some light on those worthless cockroaches.

Those who paid hush money need to be identified, not kept secret.

I would expect this to go something like the EX-IM Bank — they’ll publicly eliminate it, and then restore it without mention as a part of some large, complicated hurry-up deal in the future.

PersonofInterests | December 14, 2018 at 10:45 am

Not good enough. How about those who have used taxpayers’ funds to pay off their accusers, refund the taxpayer with interest. Since this has been reported to have been taking place since about 1995, the amount could be “Yuge.”

buckeyeminuteman | December 14, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Congress has to write a bill that tells themselves they can’t use public funds to get themselves out of moral trouble???

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