Comstock said there should be clear-cut rules about the kinds of relationships and behaviors that are off-limits and create a hostile work environment. With few exceptions, every person said they have personally experienced sexual harassment on the Hill or know of others who have.
She is also crafting another bill to overhaul the process available for staff to file harassment complaints with Office of Compliance, which she says discourages victims from coming forward.
Neither Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, nor Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican, named the lawmakers in question during a hearing in the House administration committee, but the accounts reverberated on Capitol Hill, where former and current aides have described sexual harassment as "pervasive".
House lawmakers on Tuesday will review the chamber's sexual harassment policies in the wake of sweeping allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment that have rocked powerful institutions and industries across the country.
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In order to fix the problem, members called for mandatory in-person sexual harassment training and a regular climate survey of members and staff.
"A young staffer had been asked to go to a member's residence to bring some documents and was greeted by a member in a towel who then brought her in and exposed himself and she left and she chose to quit the office and has moved on", Comstock said.
"What are we doing here for women right now", she added, "who are dealing with someone like that?"
Testimony detailed that while Congress demands private companies have fair ways for accusers to pursue sexual harassment claims, Congress' own sexual harassment complaint process has stacked the deck in favor of members of Congress against their accusers.
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One lawmaker, Republican Rodney Davis of IL, said that some female staffers in his office anxious that "some offices might take a shortcut and not hire women as a way to avoid these issues". Shortly afterward House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., sent a memo to fellow lawmakers encouraging them to complete sexual harassment training and make it mandatory for their staffs.
Office of Compliance staff who testified before the committee said mandatory in-person training would be a good first step toward preventing harassment.
Comstock did not name the member of Congress, whose name wasn't disclosed to her. If a member of Congress has been accused, they receive a House lawyer to represent them for free while the accuser does not receive free counsel.
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