As the response to sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein spreads to America’s most public industries, the Washington Post reported Thursday on Congress’s unique system of handling sexual harassment claims from interns and staffers.
The Post describes Congress as playing by different rules — a workplace where “interns have limited harassment protections under the unique employment law that Congress applies to itself” and where a special U.S. Treasury fund has been established just for settlement payouts.
From Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck in the Washington Post:
Congress makes its own rules about the handling of sexual complaints against members and staff, passing laws exempting it from practices that apply to other employers.
Under a law in place since 1995, accusers may file lawsuits only if they first agree to go through months of counseling and mediation. A special congressional office is charged with trying to resolve the cases out of court.
When settlements do occur, members do not pay them from their own office funds, a requirement in other federal agencies. Instead, the confidential payments come out of a special U.S. Treasury fund.
Congressional employees have received small settlements, compared with the amounts some public figures pay out. Between 1997 and 2014, the U.S. Treasury has paid $15.2 million in 235 awards and settlements for Capitol Hill workplace violations, according to the congressional Office of Compliance. The statistics do not break down the exact nature of the violations.
Read the rest of the article here.