Congress' Office of Compliance has paid out $15 million in work-related settlement payments in the last two decades -- but not what those payments cover.
Congress's Office of Compliance has released settlement figures since 1997, after it was inundated with requests about payments in light of recent sexual harassment allegations engulfing Washington, D.C. The House and Senate were already debating sexual harassment policies on Capitol Hill when a woman on Thursday accused Sen. (D-Minn.) of groping her and forcefully kissing her against her will. Franken has apologized and of his behavior.
But the figures released don't necessarily relate to sexual harassment complaints. The data released under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 cover everything from Fair Labor Standards Act complaints to Family and Medical Leave Act complaints. The data also doesn't necessarily just relate to House and Senate offices. A large portion of the cases come from other legislative branch offices, according to the Office of Compliance.
The greatest number of settlements or awards, as well as the highest total figure of those awards, took place in 2007, when $4.1 million was paid out to settle 25 claims. Other years varied, with the fewest number of settlements in a given year being six and the lowest total awarded in a given year being more than $39,000 in 1997.
Earlier this week, the Senate passed legislation requiring everyone in the Senate – from interns to members – to undergo sexual harassment training. And in the House, Rep.(D-Calif.) highlighted the problem of sexual harassment in Congress when she said she is aware of two members, a Republican and a Democrat, who have "engaged in sexual harassment."
She and others in Congress have introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in Congress. The bill, called the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act, would create an in-house counsel for victims of sexual harassment, among other protections.
"I am here to protect the victims. We are all here to protect the victims," Speier said on Wednesday.