Legislation introduced Friday would prevent sexual harassment and misconduct settlements from being paid out of members’ office budgets.
The measure introduced by GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana comes after sexual misconduct allegations against Rep. John Conyers were first brought to light through documents related to a wrongful dismissal complaint he settled with a former employee who had claimed she was fired for rejecting Conyer’s sexual advances. The employee, Marion Brown, was paid $27,000 in wages from Conyer’s office budget after being fired.
Walorski’s bill would prevent members from using their representational allowances to settle sexual harassment and misconduct claims against members or their staff. The measure would retroactively require the accused individual to repay office funds used in such settlements.
The measure would also direct the House Administration Committee to disclose any new settlements it approves involving sexual harassment, posting online a description of the violation, the identity of the person the claim was filed against and the amount of the settlement. The identity of the accuser would be kept private.
“Taxpayer dollars should never be used to cover up wrongdoing,” Walorski said. “It’s time to put an end to secret, taxpayer-funded settlements over harassment claims in Congress.”
The Administration Committee is holding a hearing Thursday on possible changes it could make to the Congressional Accountability Act to update the process for sexual harassment claims.
“I am focused on reviewing the entire process — from training, to House policy, to the reporting and settlement process,” Chairman Gregg Harper, R-Miss., said in a statement. “I am committed to improving the overall process to ensure there is a better system in place of our congressional community going forward.”