US & Canada

US House to implement anti-sexual harassment training

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan answers questions at a news conference following a weekly meeting of the House Republican caucus. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Ryan want to make it "abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution"

The US House of Representatives will require anti-sexual harassment training for all members of staff, House Speaker Paul Ryan has announced.

The move came hours after two female lawmakers testified about sexual misconduct involving unnamed sitting members of Congress.

Republican Barbara Comstock said she was told about a staffer who quit after a lawmaker exposed himself to her.

Mr Ryan said the hearing was a critical step in combating sexual harassment.

"Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution," Mr Ryan said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mrs Comstock testified to the House Administration Committee hearing on sexual harassment that a male member of Congress told a young female aide to deliver documents to his house, where he greeted the woman wearing a towel and exposed himself.

The aide subsequently left her job, Mrs Comstock said.

"But that kind of situation - what are we doing here for women right now who are dealing with somebody like that?" she asked.

Mrs Comstock said she was not told the name of the congressman, but added that identifying perpetrators is an important step in addressing the pervasive problem.

California Democrat Jackie Speier also testified that there are two current lawmakers who were allegedly involved in sexually harassing staffers.

She declined to name the lawmakers but said one was a Republican and the other was a Democrat.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Congresswoman Jackie Speier describes being harassed by a political staff member

Mrs Speier has previously called Congress a "breeding ground for a hostile work environment".

She told NBC's Meet the Press that $15m in taxpayers' money has been spent on settling sexual harassment claims against congressmen in the past 10 to 15 years.

Last month she shared a story of sexual assault at work as part of the #MeTooCongress campaign to draw attention to sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.

"A chief of staff held my face, kissed me, stuck his tongue in my mouth," she said in a video posted to her YouTube page.

Since sharing her own account, Mrs Speier has been inundated with phone calls from former and current staffers - both female and male - who claim to have experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour, she said.

More than 1,500 former congressional employees have signed a petition calling on Congress to mandate anti-harassment training.

Illinois Republican Rodney Davis said some female aides expressed concern that congressional offices would stop hiring women to prevent sexual harassment.

Gloria Lett, counsel for the Office of House Employment Counsel, testified that she had also heard similar concerns, but hiring based on gender would be discrimination and therefore illegal.

Gregg Harper, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, said mandatory training "is a necessary first step" in addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

He added that the committee would review other recommendations made during the hearing.

Last Thursday, the Senate approved a resolution that would create mandatory anti-harassment training for all Senate employees and interns and would require training every two years.

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