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Since 1995, the U.S. Congress has given the most badly behaving of its members and its employees an unusual, secret taxpayer-funded perk. Writing at The Hill, Jennie Beth Martin explains how a law, the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA), that was meant to compel members of the U.S. Congress to live under the terms of the same laws they impose upon regular Americans into something quite different, especially where the issue of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment, is concerned.
The CAA sought to make changes in how Congress dealt with charges of sexual harassment against its members and staff, too. Prior to enactment of the law, a victim of sexual harassment by a member of Congress had virtually no legal recourse at all. With whom would such a victim lodge a complaint or seek redress?
So the CAA created the “Office of Compliance” to deal with such issues. Complainants begin the dispute resolution process with a mandatory (yes, really) course of counseling that can last up to 30 days. Only after completing the compulsory counseling may a complainant pursue mediation. That, too, can last up to 30 days. If mediation fails to resolve the issue to the complainant’s satisfaction, she or he can then go to an administrative hearing, or file a federal lawsuit.
Here’s the kicker: If the dispute is resolved in favor of the complainant (read: victim), funds for the settlement don’t come out of the offender’s personal bank account, or his or her campaign account. Instead, they come out of a secret account maintained by the Office of Compliance. It is so secret, in fact, that taxpayers don’t even know they are funding it.
The Hill‘s Reid Wilson uncovered how much U.S. taxpayers have been charged to pay for those secret settlements, which we should note cover all cases of workplace harassment that reached that outcome – not just cases involving sexual harassment. The following chart tallies up the cumulative cost for the years for the fiscal years from 1997 through 2017.
In all, over $17.2 million have been paid out over 20 years for some 264 cases, where the average cost of a case for a Congressional bureaucrat behaving badly runs about $65,300.
That $65,300 of shush money for their victims is quite a tax-free perk for those elected members of Congress and other legislative branch bureaucrats confirmed to be behaving badly.