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Congress To Be Trained To Not Harass People

Who knew no still means no in Washington?

The House had voted to require the annual sexual harassment awareness training for all the members and staff amongst a final push to reform the culture on the Capitol Hill.

A resolution that was authored by Representative Barbara Comstock was passed easily by voice voting, though its passage will not be the hard part for the lawmakers who are seeking to reform the policies to protect the Capitol Hill employees from sexual harassment.

Comstock’s measure requires all the members and staff to undergo an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training during each of the sessions of Congress. Interns and fellows would also have to take this mandatory training.

Members and staff would have to complete this training no later than 180 days after the second session of the current Congress begins in January next year.

“Today’s bill is an important step in the right direction. But let’s not fool ourselves. It is a baby step,” said Representative Jackie Speier, who has introduced legislation to overhaul the Capitol Hill’s workplace policies.

The House vote follows a move by the Senate earlier this month to require the proper training for its members and staff.

Up till very recently, the Capitol Hill employees were not required to undergo any training to recognize and combat the sexual harassment. Some of the offices voluntarily made their workers receive the training, but it was not a universal policy.

The executive branch workers, meanwhile, have long had to take the sexual harassment awareness training. Requiring the training marks a victory for Speier, who had pushed for it back in the year 2014.

Speier had successfully added an amendment to an annual legislative branch appropriations bill approximately three years ago to require the sexual harassment awareness training for members and staff. But her amendment was ultimately not included in the final version of the bill that went on to become law.

At the time, the then-Representative Vance McAllister had been found to be having an extramarital affair with a staffer.

Some of the female lawmakers have also shared their own experiences with sexual harassment in very recent weeks.

Speier had described a chief of staff forcibly kissing her while she was still a congressional aide in the 1970s; Representative Linda Sanchez also told The Associated Press of male colleagues who had propositioned or inappropriately touched her; whereas Representative Diana DeGette had said that ex-Representative Bob Filner, once tried to pin her against an elevator and kiss her.

Still, more stories of sexual harassment were shared during Wednesday’s House floor debate.

The House Administration Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing next Thursday about the harassment reporting and settlement process.


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