Congress has doled out nearly $1 million in taxpayer-funded settlements this year to eight people following workplace complaints on Capitol Hill, according to a new government report.
These settlements were in response to claims of sexual harassment, overtime pay disputes and other workplace violations filed by employees of Congress.
The congressional Office of Compliance released figures Thursday indicating $934,754 has been paid in 2017 to government employees. That’s the most settlement money spent in 10 years.
The report indicates that the government has paid more than $17 million since 1997. The most awarded was in 2007, when more than $4 million was doled out to 25 people.
The Office of Compliance released the numbers amid a wave of revelations of sexual misconduct in the worlds of entertainment, business and politics that consumed Capitol Hill this past week.
Two female lawmakers described incidents of sexual harassment, one in explicit detail, and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken apologized to a woman who said he forcibly kissed her and groped her during a 2006 USO tour.
Franken faces a likely investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.
In a statement on the office’s website on Friday, it said “based on the volume of recent inquiries about settlements reached under the Congressional Accountability Act, the executive director is releasing awards and settlement figures for 2015, 2016 and 2017 that would have been released as part of the OOC Annual Report early.”
The independent office doesn’t break the figures down, meaning there’s no way to determine how many of the 264 settlements and awards dealt specifically with cases of sexual misconduct brought by legislative branch employees. The office, which was created in 1995 by the Congressional Accountability Act, said the cases may involve violations of multiple statutes.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., testified earlier this week that two sitting members of Congress have engaged in sexual harassment. But she refused to identify them because the victims don’t want the lawmakers named publicly. Speier said she is barred from identifying one member because of a nondisclosure agreement, and isn’t identifying the second lawmaker at the victim’s request.
At the same House hearing on sexual harassment prevention, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said she was recently told about a staffer who quit her job after a lawmaker asked her to bring work material to his house, then exposed himself.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has said the House will move ahead on legislation requiring anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and their staffs. The Senate has voted for mandatory training for senators, staff and interns.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.