In the wake of reports that female lawmakers were harassed by U.S. House colleagues, a Maine congressman is among those pushing for mandatory, annual sexual harassment training.
“It is fundamental to an employee’s safety for he or she to always feel comfortable at their workplace, and it’s past time Capitol Hill move in that direction,” U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a 2nd District Republican, said.
Poliquin is one of the three main co-sponsors of a measure introduced by California Democrat Jackie Speier that would require House members, congressional staff, and other employees of the House to complete sexual harassment prevention and response training every year, and then file a certification of completion with the House Committee on Ethics.
“Congress has been a breeding ground for a hostile work environment for far too long,” Speier said in a video released Friday.
Speier said in a prepared release that the congressional office that looks into complaints has been “shockingly biased in favor of the perpetrator” over the years. She said her proposed legislation would be a first step “to fix this abusive process.”
The Associated Press reported Friday that one current and three former female lawmakers told its reporters they had “fended off unwanted advances, sexual comments and, in one case, physical contact from a male colleague in Congress.”
The issue of sexual assault and harassment has been in the national spotlight since The New York Times and The New Yorker cited allegations by women who said they were abused by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In the wake of the Weinstein stories, there is a growing list of other celebrities and other movers and shakers accused of similar behavior.
Poliquin said in a prepared statement that Congress sets the laws and policies for executive branch employees to undergo required sexual harassment training.
“How can we be expected to lead on those policies when we, ourselves, are so far behind?” he asked. “There can be no tolerance of any kind for sexual harassment anywhere — period.”
Speier said it is “long past time that Congress held itself to the same standards applied to other branches of government and to the private sector.”
Speier last week issued a #metoo video talking about her experience dealing with unwanted sexual advances by a male chief of state when she worked years ago as a congressional staffer. She first introduced a bill to deal with the issue in 2014.
Her current proposal would require that members, officers and employees of the House receive practical instruction about sexual harassment, information about employee rights, training for bystander intervention and how to report problems.
Poliquin is one of two Republicans who signed on to Speier’s bill as lead co-sponsors. He was the first GOP lawmaker to lend his support for another alternative, offered by U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., that seeks to require training for Capitol Hill employees at least once every two years.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin