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Congresswoman Barbara Comstock

Representing the 10th District of Virginia

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Rep. Comstock Joins Bipartisan Landmark Sexual Harassment Legislation For The Legislative Branch

January 18, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (VA-10) joined a bipartisan group of Members and cosponsored the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act (CAA Reform Act). Led by Committee on House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper (MS-3), the CAA Reform Act is also co-sponsored by Committee Ranking Member Robert Brady (PA-1), and the Members of the Committee on House Administration, Representatives Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mark Walker (NC-6), Adrian Smith (NE-3), Barry Loudermilk (GA-11), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Jamie Raskin (MD-8). In addition, the bill is cosponsored by Representatives Bradley Byrne (AL-1), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Susan Brooks (IN-5), and Ted Deutch (FL-22).

“No one should be subject to sexual harassment in the workplace.  The painful stories of harassment we have all heard in the past several months from the media, Hollywood, business, and in Congress, made clear that we needed to both increase our education and training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as reform the process for reporting and resolving sexual harassment claims.  Last month the House passed my resolution, now we are moving forward with the reforms.

“This is landmark legislation that fundamentally reforms how victims of sexual harassment or discrimination will be treated in the Congressional workplace and makes clear we are committed on a bipartisan basis to zero tolerance for sexual harassment.  This legislation provides immediate access for a victim to a dedicated advocate who will provide legal consultation, representation, and assistance in proceedings before the Office of Compliance and Committee on Ethics, and streamlines the reporting and resolution process.  It forbids taxpayer money from being used in settlements, holds Members personally responsible, and requires full disclosure of any settlements with Members. The legislation also includes provisions that make clear any sexual relationships of a Member or Staff with subordinates are inappropriate.

“I have the commitment by the Chairman of House Administration to continue to work on how we can work with past victims who feel they were parties to an agreement which may be unenforceable.  I hope we can address and resolve that by the time of the markup of this bill. 

“I also still believe that we need to disclose all of the names of past Members of Congress who have made settlements for sexual harassment as well as reimburse taxpayers for those costs.  I appreciate that some of my colleagues have legal concerns about disclosure of past settlements, but I believe it is in the public interest to have full transparency not only for future settlements but for past wrongdoing of Members of Congress.  That is why I have joined over 100 of my colleagues in cosponsoring legislation by Congressman DeSantis (R-FL) to disclose past settlements.”     

Background:

H.R.__, the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act

  • Strengthens the Dispute Resolution Process and Protections of Employee Rights under the Congressional Accountability Act
  • Hold Members Personally Responsible
  • Increases Transparency of Member Conduct, Awards, and Settlements through the Office of Compliance (OOC)                                      

Protects employees:

  • Provides House employees with immediate access to a dedicated advocate who will provide legal consultation, representation, and assistance in proceedings before the OOC and Committee on Ethics;
  • Provides opportunities for employees to work remotely or request paid leave without fear of retribution;
  • Ensures confidentiality of processes;
  • Directs the OOC to conduct climate survey of employees every two years that would include surveying attitudes on sexual harassment in the workplace; and
  • Ensures every House Office has an anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policy.

Streamlines and strengthens the dispute resolution and reporting processes:

  • Eliminates the mandatory counseling and mediation provisions allowing an employee to proceed to an investigation or to file in federal court;
  • Directs the OOC General Counsel to make one of three findings: 1) reasonable cause for claim; 2) no reasonable cause for claim; and 3) no findings of reasonable cause can be made before any hearing on the merits can be held; and
  • Maintains opportunities for the employee to engage in mediation.

Members held personally responsible for any sexual harassment award or settlement:

  • Holds Members personally accountable for their conduct and requires awards or settlements to be repaid by the Member to the Treasury account within 90 days;
  • Ensures Members who leave office will still be responsible for repaying the Treasury, including garnishing annuities to ensure full repayment;
  • Requires claims to be automatically referred to the Committee on Ethics when there is a final award or settlement reached against a Member;
  • Ensures due process by allowing a Member to protect their interest;
  • Clarifies that Member-on-Member harassment is a violation of the Official Code of Conduct; and
  • Requires the Member or Employing Office to certify that no Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) or official House funds are used to pay a settlement in connection with conduct prohibited under the Congressional Accountability Act.

Strengthens transparency:

  • Requires the OOC to report and publish online every six months information on awards and settlements. Reports must include: the employing office; the amount of the award or settlement; the violation claim(s); and, when a claim was issued against a Member, whether the Member has personally repaid the Treasury account.