Rep. Jackie Speier: Pass the Me Too Congress Act

The Lily 21 Dec. 2017
One best idea: Sexual harassment takes place everywhere. This is one in a series of posts about how various industries can change to stop sexual harassment. What’s your one best idea? Share it here.

Jackie Speier’s one best idea: Fix a broken process in Congress
Speier, a Democrat, represents California in the House.
For too long, too many members of Congress have had an inflated sense of power, whereby they think they can do whatever they want to anyone and no one will hold them accountable. How else can you explain a congressman grinding against a staff member on the House floor, while sticking his tongue in her ear, without any consequence? If some members are conducting themselves this way in the House chamber, I cannot imagine how they must act in private. And since I shared my own #MeTooCongress story, it’s become clear that I am not alone.
That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Member and Employee Training and Oversight on Congress Act, otherwise known as the Me Too Congress Act, which has more than 100 co-sponsors. I have heard from survivors that they have been personally, professionally and financially destroyed by the current opaque and abusive process. Meanwhile, taxpayers foot the bill for settlements and the harasser goes on his way, free to destroy more lives. This bill does three main things to rectify these wrongs.
To protect the vulnerable, this bill creates an in-house Victims’ Counsel to represent and advise complainants, just as the House is represented by in-house counsel. The bill also ensures that employees who are not paid by Congress — that is, interns and fellows — receive the same protections as paid employees.
To level the playing field, the counseling and mediation stages will be voluntary, not required, and no confidentiality agreements will be required to start the complaint process. Legislative employees will also have the same whistleblower protections as those given to the rest of the federal government.
This bill will also increase transparency for cases that end in taxpayer-funded settlements. For those cases, the name of the employing office and the amount of the award or settlement will be published on Office of Compliance’s public website. And members who have a substantiated finding against them will be personally responsible for reimbursing the treasury for settlement costs.
The #MeToo movement is about bringing to light a dark corner of our society, and I’m heartened by the outpouring of support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I know Congress can be better than this, and the American people know Congress can be better than this. Now we must rise to their challenge.