In a rare display of bipartisan cooperation, members of the House of Representatives from both sides of the political aisle have voiced support for legislation introduced by a California Democrat that would introduce mandatory sexual harassment training for lawmakers and their staffs. During a Nov. 14 House hearing, Representative Jackie Speier pointed to a recent spate of sexual harassment allegations, which have been leveled against both Republicans and Democrats, as evidence that action is necessary.
During the same hearing, Republican Representative Barbara Comstock mentioned a female staffer that resigned after an unnamed lawmaker exposed himself to her. Speier told those in attendance that she had been sexually assaulted herself by a male colleague. The proposed bill, which has been vocally supported by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, would overhaul the reporting and investigation protocols currently in place and require lawmakers, Capitol Hill staffers and interns to be trained about recognizing and preventing sexual harassment.
The hearing came just days after a similar measure was passed unanimously by the Senate, which may have been influenced by a wave of sexual harassment claims and the allegations surrounding Roy Moore. Several women have accused the Republican nominee for the vacant Alabama Senate seat of making inappropriate sexual advances at them when they were teenagers. Both Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have called on Moore to step aside.
Workers in California are protected against sexual harassment in the workplace by both federal and state law, but they are often reluctant to step forward when these laws are broken. Attorneys with experience in this area could point out that employers have much to lose when these allegations are made, and they may encourage the defendants in sexual harassment lawsuits to settle these matters discretely to protect their reputations and avoid possibly embarrassing civil trials.