Experts recommend in-person, interactive sexual harassment training for Congress
Employment and legal experts told the House Administration Committee Thursday interactive, in-person sexual harassment training with engaged leadership can prevent sexual harassment.
The committee’s hearing comes roughly a week after the House passed a resolution mandating anti-harassment training for congressional staff. Lawmakers gave themselves 30 days to develop regulations that will govern the training.
Victoria Lipnic, the acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told the committee on Thursday there must be “committed and engaged leadership” in order for their training to be effective.
“The leadership of the organization has to be as committed to it and as engaged in that training and send the message to the individuals who are receiving that training,” Ms. Lipnic told the House Administration Committee, which met Thursday to review suggested reforms.
She said in-person, customized training with particular workplace-focused examples are important to preventing sexual harassment, but so is information on reporting procedures and what happens after a complaint is filed.
The need for reforms comes after members of Congress have been plagued with allegations of sexual misconduct, which led to Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, and Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, resigning this week.
Another legal expert from the Office of House Employment Counsel testified before the committee Thursday, saying retaliation in the workplace, disability, and race discrimination are the top complaints her office handles.
Gloria Lett, counsel for the Office of House Employment, listed the number of cases her office sees by category.
“We typically see mostly retaliation claims, because when employees file claims, they routinely include a retaliation claim,” Ms. Lett told Pennsylvania’s Rep. Robert Brady, the top Democrat on the committee, who asked how much of her case load focuses on sexual harassment.
She listed eleven categories of complaints in order of the greatest to the least common, and sexual harassment came in eighth on her list.
After retaliation, which she said was included with most other claims, came disability, race and Fair Labor Standards Act claims.
Those were followed by age discrimination, Family and Medical Leave Act claims, sex and gender discrimination cases, and then sexual harassment, which was eighth on her list. At the bottom of the list were pregnancy, national origin and military discrimination cases, as well as claims based on color.