Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) is pushing for an overhaul of the sexual harassment complaint process in Congress, weeks after sharing her own story of being assaulted as a House staffer decades ago.
Speier testified Tuesday morning in front of the House Administration Committee, detailing reforms that she expects to introduce this week.
“It is important for us to move forward, not just with training, but with a comprehensive reform of the Office of Compliance,” said Speier.
Currently, victims of sexual harassment in Congress must go through 30 days of mandatory counseling before being required to sign a nondisclosure agreement. After that come 30 days of mandatory mediation and a 30-day “cooling-off period.”
Congressional interns and fellows are not eligible for this resolution process.
The legislation Speier plans to unveil this week, the ME TOO Congress Act, will streamline the complaint process, and add more resources in the Office of Compliance to assist victims.
Speier is also continuing her years-long push for legislation to require mandatory sexual harassment training. Shortly after the hearing ended, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that all House members and staff will be required to take anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training.
The Senate adopted a new training policy last week.
Committee members at Tuesday’s hearing stressed that policy changes should go beyond training.
“Sexual harassment is often about power,” said Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose. “Our staff need to have an advocate just as powerful on their behalf.”
Last month, Speier revealed that she had been sexually assaulted when she served as a congressional staffer. On Tuesday, she said that two current members of Congress have sexually harassed staffers.
The push for reform in the handling of complaints mirrors a similar call for reform at the state Capitol, where this week the Senate announced that an independent legal team will investigate sexual harassment allegations.