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US tax money went to secret Congress harassment claims

By Zheng Qi (People's Daily)    09:28, December 21, 2017

Photo: Xinhua

Washington (People's Daily) -- US media reported the Congress used taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims. From 2008 to 2012, Congress paid out $174,000 from a US Treasury fund to settle claims of sexual harassment and sex discrimination against members of the House of Representatives, according to information released by the House Administration Committee Tuesday.

Payments include $115,000 for sexual harassment cases, and $59,000 for gender discrimination suits. Case details and identities of the victims along with the congressional offices involved were not made public.

It is believed the total sum is much higher than the money used by the Office of Compliance to handle the workplace complaints.

Congress paid out more than $17 million (USD) for settlements from the past two decades.

It was discovered that some House members used office funds for “severance” packages to employees who had been victimized in efforts to resolve workplace claims out of court, the Washington Post reported.

It was also reported that former Representative John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat, paid $27,000 in settlement fees to a former aide out of his from his office funds.

Tuesday’s data revealed settlements unrelated to sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims. There are 15 settlements involving House offices between 2008 and 2012 for a total taxpayer cost of $342,225.

The Office of Compliance, a relatively unknown Congressional agency, first disclosed data on workplace settlements just recently. The investigative office previously confirmed the existence of 6 settlements for a total of $359,450 between 2013 and 2017, and only one complaint involved a sexual harassment claim. So far, little is known about Senate offices’ settlements.

It is the latest effort by the Capitol Hill to be transparent in reporting the magnitude of workplace sexual harassment or sex discrimination.

Anti-harassment initiatives have become a large-scale social movement in the country since Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s downfall. More than half a million people use the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter to share their stories.

The #MeToo movement has swept from the entertainment industry through the political circles with a handful of congressional leaders resigning over allegations of past sexual misconduct.

Time, a popular US magazine, named “The Silence Breakers” as its 2017 Person of the Year, recognizing the women (and men) who have come forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault, inspiring a nationwide awakening. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Liang Jun)

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