House Member Offices Paid $342K in Settlements Over 4 Years - NBC New York
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

House Member Offices Paid $342K in Settlements Over 4 Years

The latest disclosure follows the revelation of an $84,000 settlement for a complaint against Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas

    Winter Olympics PyeongChang 2018 Medal Count


    House Members Introduce ME TOO Congress Act

    U.S. House members are formally introducing legislation overhauling the House’s system for handling sexual harassment complaints. Scott MacFarlane reports. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017)

    Newly-released statistics show taxpayers paid more than $342,000 to settle workplace discrimination disputes at House lawmakers' offices between 2008 and 2012, including nearly $175,000 for eight settlements related to sexual harassment and sex discrimination accusations.

    The new numbers were released Tuesday by the House Office of Compliance, the taxpayer-funded office that handles the often-secret payouts to House employees. The information reveals three previously undisclosed settlements for sexual harassment.

    One of those payouts, for $85,000, was to settle claims brought against Rep. Eric Massa, D-NY, who resigned in 2010 amid accusations that he sexually harassed male aides, according to a person with knowledge of the settlement.

    A voicemail left at the office for Massa's attorney, James Doyle, was not immediately returned on Tuesday.

    Parkland Shooting Survivor Calls 'BS' on Politicians' Gun Stance

    [NATL] Parkland Shooting Survivor Calls 'BS' on Politicians' Gun Stance

    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Sophomore Emma Gonzales had a message for president Donald Trump and for other politicians on their failure to enact sensible gun laws: "BS." Gonzales was one of several survivors to speak at a rally held outside the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to speak out against the gun lobby.

    (Published Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018)

    The Office of Compliance previously released more recent statistics that revealed a single $84,000 sexual harassment payment on behalf of Rep. Blake Farenthold. Before announcing that he won't seek re-election, Farenthold pledged to pay back the amount of his settlement.

    The new data show payouts totaling $342,225.85 for member-led offices, including roughly $115,000 paid to settle three sexual harassment complaints in the four-year period. About $53,000 was paid to settle five cases involving sex discrimination.

    The statistics also show an additional $12,240 was paid to settle an age and race discrimination and retaliation claim for a non-member led office on Capitol Hill.

    Revelations and allegations of misconduct in the political sphere continue to roil Capitol Hill.

    In the past month, six lawmakers have been forced to resign, retire or abandon plans to seek re-election after each was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior: Reps. Farenthold, Ruben Kihuen and Joe Barton have said they won't run again, while Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and John Conyers of Michigan announced their resignations.

    As Congress grapples with how to reform what has long been known as a "boys club" environment, both chambers have agreed to adopt mandatory sexual harassment training programs for all members and their staffs. Additionally, bills have been introduced that would eliminate mandatory confidentiality clauses attached to mediation and require members to repay any settlements made with taxpayer funds.

    On Tuesday, the Committee on House Administration adopted regulations to implement the training, which will be at least one hour long, cover the prevention of harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and occur in person, or via interactive webinar or video conference for employees in district offices outside of Washington. In addition, every office will be required to post a sign outlining protections provided to employees under the Congressional Accountability Act, and participate in a climate survey.

    The statistics released by the Office of Compliance don't include every harassment payout from members and their offices. In Conyers' case, the lawmaker paid a former aide $27,000 from his own congressional office budget, raising questions about how often such payments, which are virtually untraceable, are made.