An advocacy group created by former congressional staff member is urging Senate leaders to bring up legislation to address sexual harassment, echoing a recent call by all 22 female senators.
Congress Too, formed in the wake of the #MeToo movement, is circulating a letter demanding improved “transparency, safety, and accountability” in the prevention and handling of sexual harassment cases on Capitol Hill.
The Senate has been accused of dragging its feet after leaders failed to include suggested reforms in a major spending bill last month. The House approved changes to the underlying law, the Congressional Accountability Act, in February.
The letter from former aides came the same week that Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) announced she will not run for reelection amid reports that she waited three months to dismiss her chief of staff after he threatened to kill a female former colleague.
“A cascade of troubling news stories has only reinforced the urgent need for reform,” the ex-staffers’ letter said. “… Many current and former staff have spoken publicly about their own experiences, often describing a climate of fear, a burdensome and confusing reporting process, and a system designed to protect congressional offices at the expense of victims.”
Changes to the system should include public disclosure of lawmaker settlements, support for accusers during the adjudication process and counseling and mediation that is voluntary, not mandatory, the group said. The Congressional Accountability Act has been criticized for requiring accusers to undergo counseling, mediation and a month-long “cooling off” period before filing suit against their alleged harassers.
The letter did not specifically call for lawmakers to reimburse taxpayers when they are involved in settlements, a policy change that was approved by the House in February.
The letter had about 250 signatures on Thursday morning.