Our View: No tolerance for sexual harassment


Sunday, November 26, 2017

For weeks now, a series of powerful and prominent men have been accused of inappropriate behavior, sexual harassment or assault. 

From Harvey Weinstein to Charlie Rose, the worlds of business, entertainment, politics and sports have been rocked by tales of alleged inappropriate behavior, with a new accuser stepping forward seemingly every day to tell his or her painful story.

Voices have been raised in statehouses across the country about harassment by legislators and staff members. And Congress has not been immune to the problem, either.

The outrage raised by these allegations is genuine and welcome, and the repercussions that have befallen the alleged violators are warranted. But no one should be shocked that powerful men in this country have been harassing and abusing their female subordinates. Any woman who has ever stepped out of her house can tell you.

Perhaps we’ve reached a tipping point in America, where we can finally all say with one strong and clear voice: This behavior will no longer be tolerated. There will be consequences for your inappropriate behavior.

In Congress, both the Senate and the House have decided to hold mandatory sexual harassment training for the first time ever. And while one does wonder if people should really need to be trained not to sexually harass their subordinates and colleagues, it is a good first step.

More than 1,500 former congressional employees have signed a letter urging Congress to institute sexual harassment training and overhaul the reporting process. Bipartisan legislation to do just that has been introduced in the House by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and in the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. But it faces an uncertain future.

Under congressional rules, an accuser must go through a month of counseling and then mediation with an alleged harasser before the accuser can sue, while remaining on the job with the alleged harasser. Any settlement is paid for by taxpayers, but the matter is kept confidential.

That needs to change. The public has a right to know when tax money is being used to pay sexual harassment settlements for members of Congress, and who the alleged harasser is. That just may be a first step in holding violators accountable for their inappropriate behavior.