Many private employers, and the agencies under the federal executive branch, provide regular sexual harassment training to their employees. Yet, one notable employer, the United States Congress, does not.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) seeks to bridge that gap. On Tuesday April 8, 2014, she introduced a resolution to amend the Rules of the House of Representatives to require members and their staff to take “a specific program of training in the prevention and deterrence of sexual harassment in employment.” (Section 1 (a)(1)). The annual training would be two hours for new members and employees, and one hour thereafter. (Section 1 (a)(3)(B)(ii)).
The resolution follows recent high-profile events, including the controversy involving freshman lawmaker Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) and a former staffer. Yet, the incident may not be an isolated one. The Congressional Office of Compliance (OOC) received 134 claims alleging harassment and discrimination based on protected categories in fiscal year 2012. The agency’s board has recommended multiple times that sexual harassment training be mandatory in the House, according to Speier’s office.
In support of Rep. Speier’s resolution, Scott Mulligan, Deputy Executive Director (House) for the Congressional Office of Compliance, stated:
The data shows that proactive training not only directly impacts behavior by reducing workplace misconduct but also provides direct economic returns to organizations by reducing litigation and settlement costs. It further reduces the “hidden costs” of sexual harassment and discrimination by reducing absenteeism and job turn-over, while improving overall employee workplace satisfaction.
The resolution would have no immediate, direct impact on private employers, but for keeping the issue of sexual harassment training and prevention in the headlines. Rep. Speier’s office did indicate that she is considering the application of the training requirement to other federal agencies not already covered by a similar requirement. Thus, it would not be surprising to see federal agencies start requiring that federal contractors provide harassment training as part of the contracting process.