Democrat used 'severance package' to resolve complaint of hostile workplace environment

Washington Times:
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva quietly arranged a “severance package” in 2015 for one of his top staffers who threatened a lawsuit claiming the Arizona Democrat was frequently drunk and created a hostile workplace environment, revealing yet another way that lawmakers can use taxpayer dollars to hide their misbehavior on Capitol Hill.

While the Office of Compliance has been the focus of outrage on Capitol Hill for hush-money payouts in sexual harassment cases, the Grijalva payout points to another office that lawmakers can use to sweep accusations under the rug with taxpayer-funded settlements negotiated by the House Employment Counsel, which acts as the attorney for all House offices.

The employment counsel negotiated a deal for taxpayers to give $48,395 — five additional months’ salary — to the female aide, who left her job after three months. She didn’t pursue the hostile workplace complaint further.

The arrangement appears to run contrary to House rules that constrain severance packages, and it caught the eye of watchdogs who were already demanding answers about payouts in the wake of harassment complaints.

“It seems like all of these House bodies are designed to help cover for members of Congress,” said Melanie Sloan, an ethics lawyer in Washington. “A large part of the problem is that each member of Congress can treat their staff as their own fiefdom and also know that it will remain silent.”

In the case of Mr. Grijalva, the senior employee left after three months on the job. Her position was filled immediately by another worker, and her email and cellphone were deactivated.

The role of the House Employment Counsel in squelching workplace complaints emerged amid flurry of sexual harassment accusations and shock that Congress has covered it up for years.

Most of the focus has been on Congress’ Office of Compliance, which over the past 20 years paid out $17.2 million to settle 264 complaints of sexual harassment and other workplace violations on Capitol Hill, The Washington Post reported this month.

In the absence of a human resources department for Congress, the Office of Compliance handles sexual harassment and other workplace grievances. The settlements are secret, and the complaint process is arduous and can drag out for months with mandatory counseling for victims and other requirements.

Victims also are required to sign a confidentiality agreement before the matter can be resolved.

That appears to have happened in the Grijalva case with the Employment Counsel as well.
...
There is more.

Some have suggested that severance packages are sometimes used to settle sexual harassment complaints.  Grijalva denies that is the case in this situation, but both he and the woman receiving the payments have little to say about the matter.

I suspect there will a congressional investigation into the practice.

The secrets contained in the severance packages appear to be one of the few that have not been reported in Washington, where top secret material is sometimes found on the front pages.

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