House offices paid $342k in settlements over 4 years
Washington – Newly-released statistics show taxpayers paid more than $342,000 to settle workplace discrimination disputes at House lawmakers’ offices between 2008 and 2012, including nearly $175,000 for eight settlements related to sexual harassment and sex discrimination accusations.
The new numbers were released Tuesday by the House Office of Compliance, the taxpayer-funded office that handles the often-secret payouts to House employees. The information reveals three previously undisclosed settlements for sexual harassment. It does not identify the lawmakers’ offices involved or name the accusers. It was not clear whether the cases involved accusations against a lawmaker or a member of their staff.
The Office of Compliance previously released more recent statistics that revealed a single $84,000 sexual harassment payment on behalf of Rep. Blake Farenthold. Before announcing that he won’t seek re-election, Farenthold pledged to pay back the amount of his settlement.
The new data show payouts totaling $342,225.85 for member-led offices, including roughly $115,000 paid to settle three sexual harassment complaints in the four-year period. About $53,000 was paid to settle five cases involving sex discrimination.
The statistics also show an additional $12,240 was paid to settle an age and race discrimination and retaliation claim for a non-member led office on Capitol Hill.
In the past month, six lawmakers have been forced to resign, retire or abandon plans to seek re-election after each was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior: Reps. Farenthold, Ruben Kihuen and Joe Barton have said they won’t run again, while Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and John Conyers of Detroit announced their resignations.
Both chambers of Congress have agreed to adopt mandatory sexual harassment training programs for all members and their staffs. On Tuesday, the Committee on House Administration adopted regulations to implement the training, which will be at least one hour long, cover the prevention of harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and occur in person, or via interactive webinar or video conference for employees in district offices outside of Washington.
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