Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Olson Acts to Improve Harassment Policies for Congressional Staff

February 6, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC– Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22) today acted to improve policies to help Congressional staffers that fall victim to harassment, hold Members accountable for their actions and strengthen transparency in the settlement process. Olson voted for H.R. 4924 and H.Res. 724, which together will improve the process for filing harassment complaints. Included in the package is H.R. 4690, the Responsible Settlements for Victims and Taxpayers Act, which Olson introduced with Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21) in December. It requires Members found guilty of harassment to reimburse the Treasury for settlements paid out to victims and allows for their federal retirement account, also known as a Thrift Savings Account, to be taken to pay back the American people should they leave office without reimbursing the Treasury. The legislative package of H.R. 4924 and H.Res. 724 passed the House by voice vote.

“Everyone who comes to work for the American people deserves a safe work environment,” Rep. Pete Olson said. “Reports of harassment and the convoluted settlement process here in the House are wrong on every level. Taxpayer dollars should never be spent on lawmakers’ inappropriate action. I’m also pleased my bill to hold Members financially responsible for their actions, even after they leave office, was included in this package. This is an important step in the right direction to protect the Congressional workplace from abuse. ”

Highlights of the Legislation:

  • Protects employees:
    • Ensures every House Office has an anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policy
    • Provides House employees with immediate access to a dedicated advocate who will provide legal consultation, representation, and assistance in proceedings before the OOC and Committee on Ethics
    • Provides opportunities for employees to work remotely or request paid leave without fear of retribution
    • Ensures confidentiality of processes
  • Streamlines and strengthens the dispute resolution and reporting processes
    • Eliminates the mandatory counseling and mediation provisions allowing an employee to proceed to an investigation or to file in federal court
  • Holds Members personally responsible for any sexual harassment award or settlement
    • Requires awards or settlements to be repaid by the Member to the Treasury account within 90 days
    • Ensures Members who leave office will still be responsible for repaying the Treasury
    • Requires claims to be automatically referred to the Committee on Ethics when there is a final award or settlement reached against a Member or a Senior Staffer
    • Requires the Member or Employing Office to certify that no Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) or official House funds are used to pay a settlement in connection with conduct prohibited under the Congressional Accountability Act
  • Strengthens Transparency
    • Requires the OOC to report and publish online every six months information on awards and settlements
    • Requires the OOC to publish within 30 days all settlements and awards, the amount, and the public funds used for all section 201(a) claims

 

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Media Contact: Melissa Kelly 
202-225-5951