“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.