House passes bill to streamline sexual harassment complaints

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., was one of the authors of a bill the House passed Tuesday to overhaul the way Congress handles sexual harassment allegations. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI

Feb. 7 (UPI) — The House on Tuesday passed legislation to change the way Congress handles sexual harassment allegations and settlements.

The legislation would streamline the process for how staffers on Capitol Hill lodge complaints and offer them more resources.

Under current law, staffers must undergo months of mediation and counseling before they are allowed to file a complaint against a member of Congress. The new law would eliminate that requirement.

The law also would require members of Congress to pay settlements out of their own pockets instead of using taxpayer dollars.

“There is no place for sexual harassment or any type of harassment period,” said Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee.

Sexual harassment allegations in Congress have come under increased scrutiny in recent months amid a similar fallout in Hollywood. The cost to taxpayers also has been investigated.

The Senate Rules Committee issued a report in December saying the Senate spent more than $1.45 million over the past 20 years to settle sexual harassment and discrimination cases.

In addition to the legislation, the House passed a resolution that bans sexual relationships between members of Congress and any staffer they oversee.

“Thanks to the ‘Me Too’ movement, the American public has made it clear that they have had enough. They expect Congress to lead and for once, we are,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., one of the authors of the bill.


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