On Sunday, Kasie Hunt dedicated her MSNBC show to exploring sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. In the clip above, she highlights how individuals who come forward (in itself a difficult task) are faced with extensive bureaucracy and waiting periods.
Hunt explains that, to begin with, one has 180 days to report it to the Office of Compliance—assuming you know the office exists. According to a roll call survey of congressional staff, only one in ten staffers were aware of the office’s existence.
After the complaint has been processed, there are 30 days of mandatory counseling—for the victim. You then have 15 days to decide if you’d like to bring those complaints to mediation, which is another 30 days. If you don’t want to go to mediation, game over.
However, if you’re sticking with it and go on to mediation, the law binds you with confidentiality.
“You continue to go to work everyday. And to be clear, during this time there’s typically no investigation or attempt to change the workplace environment, so you might be seeing this person every day at work,” Hunt explains.
Once mediation begins, the accused receives a lawyer, paid for with tax dollars. The victim may or may not have a lawyer during this process. If you don’t reach a settlement, there’s a 30 day mandatory “cooling off period,” before you can take your case to court. If you do reach a settlement, you must sign a non-disclosure agreement that keeps you from talking to anyone about your experience. Even with your therapist.
At minimum, that’s three months of working alongside the person you have been sexually harassed by, with an enormous amount of work on your end and virtually none on theirs. All settlements are paid with taxpayer money. Makes it pretty easy to see why many victims of harassment would rather search for a new job during those ninety days than take on their employer.
During the episode, Hunt also focuses on the “pervasive culture of sexual harassment” in politics, using both Alabama Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of cultivating sexual relationships with teen girls, and Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken, who was accused of assault by two women, as examples of how that plays out.
According to the accounts of multiple congresswomen and staffers, sexual harassment is a pervasive problem on the Hill, aside from these higher profile instances, which eventually led to a House committee holding a hearing on sexual harassment policies. A group of Hill aides also penned a letter condemning sexual harassment policies in Congress.
“It is a process that experts say—intentionally or not—keeps victims from coming forward,” the letter reads. “It’s not OK.”