WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) - There’s a lengthy and cumbersome process when it comes to reporting sexual harassment in Congress, because there is no Human Resources Department.
Critics say it actually discourages victims from coming forward. The process begins with the Office of Compliance, or O.O.C.
Victim's have 180 days to file a report. Then up to 30 days of counseling with a member of that office. Then there’s mediation; sessions with a professional mediator that lasts 30 days.
The office is notified, a confidentiality agreement signed and Congress provides a lawyer for the accused. If you are the accuser, you’re on your own, you must hire your own lawyer.
If a settlement is reached, victim’s sign a non-disclosure agreement.
If mediation doesn't work – there’s a 30 day cooling off period. That means if the victim sticks with the process, they go back to work and if the accused hasn’t resigned, the victim will likely be working with that person for the next month.
After those 30 days, the victim can request an administrative hearing in Congress or take the case to Federal Court.
All settlements are paid out by the Office of Compliance through a fund made up of taxpayer dollars. Seventeen million dollars for 260 complaints, but not all are harassment cases. The fund covers all workplace complaints.
And here’s an unfortunate side note, interns and fellows do not have access to this process, but that could change under a bill being pushed in the Senate.
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