WASHINGTON — Nov 14, 2017, 8:35 PM ET

House to adopt mandatory anti-sexual harassment training

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Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that the House will require anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and their staffs. The announcement came just hours after a hearing in which two female lawmakers spoke about sexual misconduct involving sitting members of Congress.

"Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution," said Ryan, R-Wis. "As we work with the Administration, Ethics, and Rules committees to implement mandatory training, we will continue our review to make sure the right policies and resources are in place to prevent and report harassment."

The policy change will happen through legislation.

The move comes days after the Senate unanimously approved a measure requiring all senators, staff and interns to be trained on preventing sexual harassment.

During a House Administration hearing Tuesday on sexual harassment prevention, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said she was recently told about a staffer who quit her job after a lawmaker asked her to bring work material to his house, then exposed himself.

"That kind of situation, what are we doing here for women, right now, who are dealing with someone like that?" Comstock asked. Comstock said there should be clear-cut rules about the kinds of relationships and behaviors that are off-limits and create a hostile work environment.

Comstock said the name of the lawmaker she mentioned wasn't disclosed to her, but she emphasized that naming names is an important step in promoting accountability and encouraging victims to come forward.

At the same hearing, Rep. Jackie Speier said two current lawmakers have been involved in sexual harassment.

"In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, who serve right now who have been subject to review, or not been subject to review, that have engaged in sexual harassment," Speier said.

The Democrat from California recently introduced legislation to make training to prevent sexual harassment mandatory for members of Congress after sharing her own story of being sexually assaulted by a male chief of staff. Her bill also includes a survey of the current situation in Congress and an overhaul of the processes by which members and staffers file harassment complaints.

The bill gained support from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., who chairs the House Administration Committee, said in his opening remarks, "I believe we need mandatory training, and probably everyone here would agree."

Speier said since coming forward with her story she's been inundated with phone calls from staffers eager to share their own accounts of harassment and abuse. A petition calling for Congress to make training mandatory has gained more than 1,500 signatures from former Hill staffers.

She did not name the lawmakers mentioned in her testimony, citing the nondisclosure agreements she wants to eliminate.

One Republican lawmaker, Rodney Davis of Illinois, said that addressing the issue of sexual harassment on the Hill is "long overdue" and that Congress must "lead by example." But he expressed concern that the increasing focus on gender hostility in the workplace could create unintended consequences, including "that some offices may just take a short cut and not hire women as a way to avoid these issues."

Gloria Lett, counsel for the Office of House Employment Counsel, replied that such discrimination is illegal.

With each passing day, new revelations of sexual misconduct continue to rock the political sphere. Alabama's Republican nominee for Senate, Roy Moore, has come under fire after several women came forward with accounts of sexually inappropriate behavior or, in at least one case, assault, at Moore's hand when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans, including Ryan, have said Moore should step aside. One Republican senator has suggested that if elected, Moore should be expelled from the Senate.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said women are "nowhere near where we should be" in workplaces across the country — including the Senate.

"You wonder why there's only 21 women in the Senate, or why there's hardly any women running Hollywood studios ... or major businesses. Well, when you have work environments where people feel like they can't get ahead without having to put out, that's what happens," Klobuchar said.

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This story was corrected to show that the last quote was from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, not Sen. Maria Cantwell, as initially reported by a transcript service.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this story.

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  • Hub

    Every allegation must result in the immediate expulsion of the lawmaker. Moore doctrine.

  • WorkingClass

    Gives new meaning to the phrase "a member of Congress." ;-)

  • Paul Vondra

    Imagine that. We have a Congress that needs special training in basic courtesy, respect, non-perversion, and respect for the law. Of course, it won't be long before the bottom-feeding right refers to the campaign to prevent sexual assault and harassment as "political correctness run amok" since the bottom-feeding right has spent years redefining "political correctness" as any attempt at courtesy, civility and respect.

  • rightened

    Ah, Mr. Paul "Legitimate Rape" Ryan has something to say on the subject, does he?

  • ProfPalefuddy

    Hiding behind a non disclosure agreement should be made retro actively mute, as it is clear that this kind of safety zone allows repeat offences. Anyone who has settled a case should be exposed. In future these cases should include Public Exposure, and termination of the violator not the person violated.

  • PeterFromDuluth

    I don't know about the Congress, but male strip clubs are waiting for the man's name disclosed. It will be a win-win.

  • E Sverdrup

    I agree training is needed but the congressman who exposed himself needs to be kicked out of congress. That’s unacceptable that any employee would have to deal with that. There is no second chance.

  • Ogrot

    Outside of penthouse forums stories when has exposing yourself to someone you barely know, have some kind of business relationship with, or met at a bar, ever ended in any way other than a mixture of awkward surprise, horror and disgust, and the abrupt end of the relationship?

    Like who out there thinks presenting the snake uninvited has ever closed the deal ever?

  • donnie vanderford

    You call an intern to your home, expose yourself and you need training to know not to do that?
    What is wrong with us?

  • RoyalT

    If you need mandatory training to learn that you shouldn't expose yourself to others......maybe you shouldn't be representing the American people on any level.

  • Blaize Rage

    And she stayed around to watch? It is not like it is not obvious what a male is going to do that a person can't attempt to leave.

  • BassPlyr73 Again

    Man, what kind of world are we living in today? I mean, you can't even expose yourself or sexually harrass/assault your subordinates anymore and get away with it. Is this really how we want our country to be? SMH

  • Sue Thomason

    If grown men running for office need "training" something is definitely wrong.

  • Siestasis 42

    Any member that exposes himself to another elected official or staff member needs to be removed. Kick their butts out with whatever procedure is required.Let them explain to their voters why they cannot serve

  • George Columbo

    Tell me it isn't true, both Republican and Democrat?
    Come on people get your act's together. Enough of this crap. Act like men and ladies and do the absolutely correct thing. Stop acting like moron's.

  • turtlemouth

    Who does this? I don't even like standing next to anyone at the urinal; I can't imagine having the nerve to just go off and expose myself to someone.

  • BD70

    Wait...they lack any self control so they think not hiring women is the answer? smdh......

  • Donnie The Lion

    Sometimes the victims get threats of death for coming forward. It isn't the easiest thing to name names.

  • Bryan Thompson

    Yeah, anyone over 18 needs training not to touch someone else without their permission, not to require an aid to bring work to their home. Yeah, whatever .... All the "training" in the world means nothing to these people. If they think they can get away with it, they'll try.

  • gordo53

    I sincerely hope every woman harassed by a member of Congress comes forward and names her culprit. That is the only way it will stop. People in Congress know all about their code of silence and expect everyone including staffers to follow it. There is momentum right now to do the right thing and come forward. Let's hope it happens.

  • elhjunk

    "Comstock did not name the member of Congress, whose name wasn't disclosed to her."

    So all hearsay? This is nothing more than another attempt, from a different angle, to make GOP look like a bunch of sex offenders when we know it isn't just the GOP.

  • rontron

    I guess we can thank Mr. Weinstein for the sudden spate of accusations. Although it has been going on in one form or another for decades. Then again perhaps the Media just needed a new topic to get attention.

  • Robert Byrd

    Bill Clinton set the bar.