WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House of Representatives will adopt mandatory training on sexual harassment and discrimination, Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday after members of Congress shared stories of women being propositioned and groped in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
“Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution,” the Republican speaker said in a statement.
Ryan announced the new policy as a first step in the House’s review of sexual harassment policies after women lawmakers related in unflinching detail accounts of harassment and intimidation by House members and staff in Congress.
The Committee on House Administration held a hearing on sexual harassment policies against a backdrop of social outrage over sexual misconduct by powerful men that began with allegations by multiple women against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. He has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama, has faced allegations by five women accusing him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers. Ryan and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have urged Moore to drop out of the race. Moore has denied the allegations.
U.S. Representative Jackie Speier told the panel that two current House members, a Republican and a Democrat, had engaged in sexual harassment. She did not identify the lawmakers.
She said numerous staff members, both men and women, had been subjected to inexcusable and often illegal behavior.
They included “propositions such as ‘Are you going to be a good girl?’ to perpetrators exposing their genitals, to victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor,” she said.
Speier later told MSNBC: “We do know that about $15 million has been paid out by the House on behalf of harassers in the last 10 to 15 years,” including one taxpayer-funded settlement on behalf of one of the current House members.
About 1,500 former congressional staffers have urged the House and Senate leadership to address the issue.
The Senate passed a resolution last week to require training. Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a lead sponsor of that measure, said the next step was to make changes in how harassment complaints are handled.
“You wonder why there’s only 21 women in the Senate or why there’s no women running Hollywood studios or there’s hardly any women running major businesses,” Klobuchar told reporters. “Well, when you have a work environment where people can’t get ahead without having to put out, that’s what happens.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Peter Cooney)