Most Mich. lawmakers don’t disclose harassment policies
Washington — As scandals over sexual harassment roil Capitol Hill, members of the Michigan delegation say they have no tolerance for such behavior in their offices, though most refused to share the internal policies guiding their employees.
Eleven of the 16 delegation members did not provide a requested copy of their harassment policy. Most said they had one in place and indicated that anti-harassment training is a requirement for staffers.
The office of embattled Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, was among those that did not provide a copy of the policy.
Conyers has been accused by three former staffers of sexual misconduct, leading to an ethics investigation and a call last week by House leaders for his resignation.
The longest-serving member of the U.S. House denies the accusations and plans to announce his future plans at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday on the Mildred Gaddis Show on WPZR-FM 102.7, his attorney said Monday. Supporters held a rally in Detroit on Monday to advocate that Conyers receive “due process” and that critics quit pressuring him to step down.
In response to the recent controversies, the U.S. House last week approved a resolution requiring anti-harassment training for House members, staff and officers. The Senate recently did the same.
Conyers’ office said it already required staffers to complete the training program offered by the congressional Office of Compliance on workplace rights, which covers harassment and discrimination training.
The employee handbook of Rep. Mike Bishop had an unusual clause requiring that all cases of sexual harassment be reported in writing within 48 hours. That differs from the 180-day window to report harassment advertised by the Office of Compliance, which is responsible for handling harassment complaints.
When asked about the policy, Bishop’s office said the first 48 hours is not by any means the only window of time that an employee may report an incident.
A spokeswoman for the Rochester Republican said the clause was originally included to emphasize the need to handle harassment matters as quickly as possible, but the mention of 48 hours will be removed from the handbook.
“We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in our office,” spokeswoman Kelli Ford said. “We’re going to omit it to avoid any confusion going forward.”
Bishop’s chief of staff, Allan Filip, has also required all staff to take the Office of Compliance’s training program and submit their certificates of completion to him when the training is finished, Ford added.
The office of Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, declined to comment on The Detroit News’ request for a copy of its harassment policy.
The office of Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, did not respond. Her chief of staff resigned last month amid allegations that he sexually harassed several former office staffers — accusations he denied.
Lawrence has said “no employee should ever be made to feel intimidated, harassed or otherwise discriminated against in their place of work.”
The five Michigan offices that shared their internal policies bar harassment based on race, sex, age, religion, disability, color, national origin or military status.
Violation of the policies, including the provisions prohibiting retaliation for complaints, is punishable by discipline up to and including dismissal.
Those who shared their policies are Reps. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak; Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland; Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn; Dave Trott, R-Birmingham; and Bishop.
The policies of Dingell and Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, also expressly prohibit harassment based on sexual orientation, according to their offices. Dingell’s policy addresses harassment based on gender identity as well.
Rep. Dan Kildee’s office does not share internal documents but has a “strict, no-tolerance” policy regarding sexual harassment and discrimination detailed in its employee handbook, which all staff and interns receive during the interview and orientation process, a spokesman said.
All Kildee employees are required to complete an annual training addressing sexual harassment in the workplace that is provided by the Office of Compliance.
Upon completion of the training, staff must send their training certificate of completion to their immediate manager or directly to Kildee, D-Flint Township.
The office of Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said its policy actually requires employees to complete two trainings provided by the House — from the Office of Compliance and the chief administrative officer, spokesman David Russell said.
All employees are required to sign the office’s formal employee handbook, which has an anti-harassment policy that was drafted in consultation with the House’s legal counsel, Russell said.
A spokesman for Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, said the office doesn’t tolerate harassment in the workplace “in any form,” and training was already a requirement for the office and had been completed by Walberg and staff.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, indicated his office policy states that harassment of any kind is grounds for immediate action, including dismissal. His staff members are required also to take annual harassment training, as are Bergman’s employees.
Upton and his staff have participated in anti-harassment training and “understand our strict, zero tolerance harassment policies,” spokesman Tom Wilbur said.
The office of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, has a “strict, no-tolerance” harassment policy, and office employees were required to undergo mandatory sexual harassment training prior to the recent change in congressional rules, a spokesman said.
The office of Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, “strictly prohibits” sexual harassment, any behavior that could be interpreted as sexual harassment and retaliation for harassment complaints, a spokeswoman said.
Employees receive the office’s policy in writing along with instructions for reporting harassment and retaliation when they begin working there. Staffers were notified before the congressional rules change that they would have to complete sexual harassment training, she said.