A Democratic lawmaker who sponsored an anti-sexual harassment bill in Congress has been accused of ignoring sexual harassment complaints from her employees about her chief of staff.
Three former staff members who worked in Rep. Brenda Lawrence’s (D-MI) office told Politico that the Michigan lawmaker ignored their concerns about her chief-of-staff, Dwayne Duron Marshall, making inappropriate physical contact and crude remarks towards them.
Lawrence introduced the Congressional Sexual Training Act, a bill that would require congressional staffers to take online sexual harassment training, citing her “zero tolerance” policy for sexual harassment.
“You have to set a tone. You have to establish this benchmark of zero tolerance,” the Michigan Democrat said of the bill on ABC’s This Week in October.
But her former employees say she does not practice what she preaches when she allows Marshall to remain on her payroll, despite staffers’ complaints about his behavior.
Two of the women said they left their jobs because of Marshall.
All three women said Lawrence should have investigated their complaints against Marshall, especially since the congresswoman’s former job was to investigate sexual harassment complaints for the federal government.
“She’s complicit because she knows,” one former staffer said. “She knows he makes comments. She knows he rubs the back and rubs the shoulders. … She’d say, ‘I know there are some problems, but he has his good points too,’ and ‘[the good] outweighs the bad.'”
Lawrence, however, denied the allegations, stating that she had implemented training for “management style issues” but never received any sexual harassment complaints.
“I want to be very clear, very firm, that I had no knowledge of any allegations of sexual harassment in my office, and when I say none, I mean none,” Lawrence told Politico.
After the Politico piece came out, Lawrence placed Marshall on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Marshall, however, maintains his innocence. He called the accusations against him “slanderous” and denied that he sexually harassed anyone.