- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2017

The House Ethics Committee on Friday took a step toward discovering the names of lawmakers who secretly settled sexual harassment complaints by congressional employees.

The committee sent a request to the Office of Compliance, which has quietly paid out $17.2 million to settle workplace complaints over the last 20 years, to provide all records “related to any claims of recusal harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or any other employment practice” prohibited under House rules.

The outrage over sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill has focused on the Office of Compliance following a report last month that it paid $17.2 million to settle 264 workplace grievances, including sexual harassment.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, has been under pressure to release the names of lawmakers who have secretly settled workplace harassment cases.

The Office of Compliance imposes a byzantine process on sexual harassment victims that favors Congress members, including requiring a confidentiality agreement before the matter can be resolved.



Lawmakers also have found other ways to pay off employees who object to sexual harassment and other workplace grievances, such as continuing to pay salary after the worker has quit.

The rash of sexual harassment claims sweeping the country hit Capitol Hill with accusations against Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, and Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat.

Mr. Conyers, 88, the longest-serving member of Congress, has been accused of sexual harassment by several women who worked in his office over the years. One female staffer was paid $27,000 in 2015 as part of a confidentiality agreement after she accused Mr. Conyers of firing her when she refused to have sex with him, BuzzFeed reported.

The House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the sexual harassment accusation against Mr. Conyers, who denied wrongdoing but has stepped down from his position as ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

In a letter to the Office of Compliance, the Ethics Committee’s chairman and ranking member said any accusation of misbehavior or settlement of complaints of misbehavior involving a Congress member falls under their jurisdiction.

“As you know, sexual harassment and employment discrimination are prohibited in the House of Representative, both by statue and by the Code of Official Conduct (House Rules),” wrote Chairwoman Susan W. Brooks, Indiana Republican, and ranking member Rep. Theodore E. Deutch, Florida Democrat.

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