Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | News | Local News | Contact Us | Home RSS

Stefanik votes to reform Congress’ harassment response

December 13, 2017
By AARON CERBONE - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

As a wave of sexual harassment accusations and legislation has passed through Congress, the North Country representative Elise Stefanik has joined many other women in Congressional politics to support and vote for reform of a system that has, for years, turned a blind eye to harassment.

In a phone interview Thursday, Dec. 7, she said she believes the reporting process is too complicated. With victims unsure of whether to report to the Office of Congressional Ethics or the House Ethics Committee, she said the process needs to be made streamlined and clear.

Stefanik, one of 104 women in a 535-member Congress, said the easier it is for victims to expose harassment, the easier it will be to end it for both Congress and workplaces in the U.S.

Article Photos

Rep. Elise Stefanik
(Photo — Watertown Daily Times)

"It's a societal issue; it's not limited to one institution and not others," Stefanik said.

Stefanik said she has not experienced sexual harassment during her political career but is standing up for her fellow women in Congress and other workplaces to end the harassment they have silently faced for years.

Michigan Democrat John Conyers and Arizona Republican Trent Franks have resigned while accusations against Texas Republican Blake Farenthold and Nevada Democrat Ruben Kihuen have led to lawsuits and in Kihuen's case, calls for resignation. In the Senate, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken has resigned and Alabama Republican Roy Moore continues his bid for a seat while eight women have alleged sexual assault and harassment by him, several while they were as young as 14.

"I don't support Roy Moore. I don't support the RNC's decision to financially support Roy Moore," said Stefanik said, who co-sponsored and helped the House pass legislation requiring each of its members, officers and employees complete a workplace rights and responsibilities training before each session of Congress.

"Everybody deserves to have the opportunity to work in a safe workplace every day and we need to set the standard in Congress," Stefanik said.

To make reporting less of a hassle Stefanik has also co-sponsored the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017, standing with former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson Dec. 6 to announce the legislation that would void forced arbitration agreements. Carlson left the Fox network after years of forced arbitration kept her alleged sexual harassment by powerful men at the network from public light.

Forced arbitration clauses restrict victims from discussing their sexual harassment as they unknowingly sign away their right to a jury trial in the fine print of contracts, making it far less likely for them to win cases that go to trial than cases that go through the arbitration process.

According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, an estimated 60 million Americans are subject to forced arbitration clauses.

While accusations against legislators have accumulated over the past month, heightened scrutiny of Congress' policies regarding sexual harassment has revealed that for over 20 years, millions of taxpayer dollars have been used to fund settlements that have silenced alleged sexual harassment victims.

"Under no circumstances should taxpayer dollars be used to settle sexual harassment cases," Stefanik said.

Funds made possible through the ironically named Congressional Accountability Act have been used to pay out $15.2 million in settlements since 1997. Stefanik said the act must be reformed and that Barbara Comstock of the House Administration Committee and Susan Brooks of the House Ethics Committee are currently holding hearings to update the act.

Congressional candidate for the 21st District Don Boyajian said Congress must do more to stop sexual harassment before it happens.

"I am disturbed by Congress' inability to proactively address sexual misconduct in the workplace, particularly among their own representatives and staff. The lack of leadership sets a bad example for the entire country," Boyajian wrote in an email. He also said though Stefanik has spoken out against members of Congress who have been accused of these crimes, she has not done it for everyone, saying that some were resolved through the proper channels. "Congresswoman Stefanik has failed the American people by not calling out her colleague, Rep. Blake Farenthold, who used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim brought against him by a former communications director."



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web