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Hostile work environments reported in 25 congressional offices

The U.S. Office of Compliance is a federal agency which works to ensure that the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Congressional Budget Office and other Capitol building employers comply with federal employment law. The OOC, as it is known, has just released its latest report, and its revelations were disturbing.

The report found that members of staff in 25 separate congressional offices had sexual harassment or hostile work environment complaints filed against them in 2011. Even more troubling, such complaints are on the rise.

23 of the offices belonged to members of the House of Representatives, and two to members of the Senate. In addition to the complaints against congressional members of staff, 171 other hostile work environment complaints were filed against other employers at the Capitol building, such as the Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol. The total number of complaints, 196, is up 16 percent over the previous year.

The OOC works to resolve these complaints by offering legal counsel providing confidential mediation services. Last year, mediated settlements in employment law cases handled by the OOC totaled a minimum of $461,366.

The names of the congressional aides and staffers involved, as well as the names of those who filed the complaints, are confidential. However, the Washington Times pointed to two high-profile hostile work environment complaints that appeared in the media this year.

Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida was accused of sexual harassment, but the court dismissed the charge. Rep. Laura Richardson of California was reprimanded by the House in August for a number of ethical issues including tolerating a hostile work environment in her office. She was fined $10,000.

Source: Washington Times, “Report: Hostile work environment complaints up on Capitol Hill,” Susan Crabtree, Oct. 18, 2012

Our firm advocates for employees who experience employment discrimination of all kinds, including a hostile work environment. For more information, please visit our website.

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