With the recent string of accusations of sexual harassment in Congress, it became public that a fund existed to pay off settlements brought against federal employees on Capitol Hill using actual taxpayer money. Those federal employees who were protected by those funds included congressional officials, their staffers, Capitol Police, and Architect of the Capitol.
The question that has been on everyone’s mind is how much did the Office of Compliance actually pay out, and what exactly did it pay out for?
In a report released by the Senate Appropriations Committee, it was revealed that over $1.45 million was used to pay off settlements involving harassment and discrimination. The Washington Post reported:
‘The House has revealed that its member-led offices were involved in 21 workplace settlements between 2008 and this year, with at least 10 involving allegations of sexual harassment or sex discrimination.’
In regards to the Senate, it was revealed that a total of almost $600,000 was paid out to settle claims made against senators. Only one of those cases was alleged to involve sexual harassment. WaPo noted that there was no differentiation between sexual harassment and sex discrimination by Congress.
‘Settlements involving claims of age discrimination cost $186,786; one agreement alone cost $102,903. The single settlement addressing allegations of sex discrimination or harassment cost $14,260. Congress has not traditionally separated claims of sexual harassment from sex discrimination in its record-keeping.’
Summing that up, one settlement involving a senator’s office involved something related to either sexual harassment or sex discrimination with 10 cases of sexual harassment or sex discrimination happening in the House.
What should be noted, however, is these numbers are misleading. The Washington Post noted the numbers in the report do not reveal complaints that weren’t formally submitted and also other payouts were described as severance pay.
‘These figures paint an incomplete portrait of the cost of settlements on Capitol Hill. Although the Treasury fund pays for some agreements, many disputes are resolved before a formal complaint is filed, according to attorneys who have represented former House and Senate employees in workplace cases. Others are paid under the guise of severance.’
For example, Rep. John Conyers, who was accused multiple times of sexual harassment, paid one “settlement” from his office as a severance.
As disgusting and unacceptable as sexual harassment is when committed anywhere, looking at the big picture the data shows the Office of Compliance paid out over $17 million over the past 22 years to settle various workplace complaints involving all offices on Capitol Hill.
‘Since 1995, the special Treasury fund has paid more than $17 million for 264 settlements involving offices on Capitol Hill. The awards responded to a variety of workplace claims, including disability and age discrimination, and involved lawmakers’ offices and other bodies, such as the Architect of the Capitol.’
Over 22 years, taxpayers have doled out $17 million to settle complaints of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, age discrimination, disability discrimination, etc. It’s important to note none of this type of behavior should occur in any workplace setting; however, it definitely shouldn’t occur on Capitol Hill. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) noted this and commented:
‘Harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated under any circumstances, but particularly not in the United States Senate.’
No. It should not occur in the Senate; however, the bad behavior of senators, representatives, and other employees on Capitol Hill should have never been paid for by the taxpayers.
Featured image via Getty Images.