sexual-harassment

Texas Governor Wants ‘Emergency’ Special Election for Farenthold’s Seat
Special election must wait until Nov. 6 midterm under current rules

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, resigned earlier in April amid an Ethics Committee investigation into claims of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment within his congressional office. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants to have a special election to replace former GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold as soon as possible, and he’s asking whether he can suspend certain election laws to do so.

Abbott sent a letter Thursday to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton outlining his desire to hold a special election soon and asking what laws he could bypass to speed up the process.

Federal Courts Make Changes in Response to #MeToo Movement
Judicial branch is creating more informal ways to file complaints

James Duff, left, and John Lungstrum testify before the House Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday. (Courtesy Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts)

A federal court official said Wednesday that a main barrier to reporting sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct in the judicial branch is the “formality of our complaint process,” as well as employees misunderstanding confidentiality provisions in ethics rules and being unaware of protections against retaliation.

James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the courts will create more informal ways to file complaints. The judiciary will also take extra steps to educate employees and law clerks about protections against retaliation for reporting misconduct, Duff said. The courts have already revised their confidentiality provisions, he added.

Inquiries to Congressional Office of Compliance Fell in 2017
Cost of settlements did rise, according to report

The congressional Office of Compliance received fewer inquiries from Capitol Hill employees last year, even as the cost of settlement grew. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Despite intense attention on workplace sexual harassment, Capitol Hill employees made fewer inquiries last year to Congress’ watchdog, but the cost of settlements rose, according to new statistics released Friday.

Harassment and hostile workplace issues topped the list of reasons that employees reached out to the congressional Office of Compliance, according to its annual report covering fiscal 2017, which ended last September. Total inquiries to the office were down to 185 from 284 the year before. The initiation of formal complaint resolutions remained mostly steady at 47, down two.

House Awards Anti-Harassment Training Contract to FranklinCovey
House employees can sign up for sessions in a week

House employees must complete a training session by July 2. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House of Representatives has awarded its Workplace Rights and Responsibilities training contract to the firm of FranklinCovey. 

FranklinCovey, which specializes in management and workplace training, has been working to coordinate over 400 sessions in D.C. and sessions in more than 90 congressional district offices throughout the country, according to a Dear Colleague letter obtained by Roll Call.

Farenthold Resigns After Sexual Harassment Scandal
Texas Republican’s resignation takes effect Friday

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, resigned Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold resigned Friday, roughly four months after news broke that he had settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with taxpayer money.

“While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it’s time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve,” Farenthold said in a statement Friday. He said he sent a letter to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott resigning his position effective 5 p.m. Friday.

Hundreds of Former Staffers Urge Senate to Act on Sexual Harassment
Senate leadership to receive letter following recess

Congress Too wants to keep the momentum to address sexual harassment strong on Capitol Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Over 600 former staffers have signed a letter urging Senate leadership to consider legislation that would address sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. That number continued to grow Friday morning.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby and ranking member Amy Klobuchar will receive the letter early next week, coinciding with the Senate’s return.

Hardy Campaign Adviser Fired After He Made Ex-Fiancee His ‘Slave’
Benjamin Sparks was fired from consultant’s job working on Rep. Cresent Hardy’s campaign

Former Nevada Rep. Cresent Hardy fired political strategist Benjamin Sparks from his campaign amid a domestic battery investigation. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Benjamin Sparks, a political strategist who has worked on several high-profile Republican campaigns over the last decade, was fired in March from his position working on former Rep. Cresent Hardy’s campaign after police responded to a domestic dispute between Sparks and his then-fiancee.

It turns out Sparks and his fiancée had signed a contract in November making the woman his “slave in training,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, citing text messages, emails and a copy of the contract the ex-fiancee shared with the publication.

Esty Used Personal Email in Severance With Abusive Staffer
Office threatened to involve Capitol Police over news outlet’s publication of personal email address

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., announced Monday that she would not run for re-election after much criticism over how she handled complaints against her former chief of staff who threatened to kill another staffer. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 3:16 p.m. | Rep. Elizabeth Esty is not running for re-election, but the fallout over how she handled an abusive staffer’s firing continued to dog the embattled Connecticut Democrat on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, the congresswoman’s office provided Connecticut Public Radio with a copy of the signed severance agreement between Esty and former Chief of Staff Tony Baker, which contained her personal email address. But after the document was published, her office notified the radio station that it had sent the wrong file and asked that it be replaced with a redacted version. 

Lawmakers Rekindle Efforts to End Harassment on Hill but Face Uncertain Future
Recent omnibus did not include sweeping House-passed harassment measure

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., right, blames Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not including the House-passed sexual harassment legislation in the recent omnibus bill. Also pictured, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A renewed push is underway to more forcefully address Capitol Hill’s sexual harassment problem, just as the latest scandal has led another lawmaker to retire.

It’s not yet clear if a bipartisan call from female senators will be strong enough to prompt Senate leadership to take up legislation to protect staff on Capitol Hill when lawmakers return Monday from a two-week recess. All 22 female Republican and Democratic senators signed on to a letter last week urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer to bring House-passed legislation to the floor.

Esty Asks Ethics Committee to Investigate Her Handling of Abusive Top Staffer
Connecticut Democrat has no plans to resign over incident

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., is not resigning over her handling of abuse and harassment allegations against her former chief of staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Connecticut Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty on Monday asked the House Ethics Committee to open an inquiry into how she handled abuse, battery, and sexual harassment allegations against her former chief of staff.

“Although we worked with the House Employment Counsel to investigate and ultimately dismiss this employee for his outrageous behavior with a former staffer, I believe it is important for the House Ethics Committee to conduct its own inquiry into this matter,” she said in a statement. “It certainly was far from a perfect process — and I would appreciate their advice, counsel, and review."