Over the Christmas weekend, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee released a report that showed that since 1998, the Senate has spent $1.5 million on harassment settlements. The Office of Compliance -- which has settled dozens of complaints against congressional offices -- provided few details other than an itemized list of violations and the corresponding settlement for each. However, the largest settlements involved racial discrimination.

According to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), details are not available to the public out of respect for confidentiality agreements with victims. “While the Rules Committee has been eager to provide this information in a transparent manner, it has been our priority to protect the victims involved in these settlements from further harm,” said the senator in a statement. “I am pleased that we have received assurances from Senate Legal Counsel that the release of this data does not violate confidentiality and as such, are able to make it public.”

Distinguishing between claims made against individual senators’ offices and “other Senate employing offices,” the report noted that individual Senate offices paid out approximately $600,000 in discrimination and harassment settlements. Other Senate employers paid out over $850,000. Meriting compensation were violations such as discrimination on the basis of age, sex, and race. There were also violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The report by the Rules Committee does not provide data concerning offenders, victims, or relevant incidents. In the report, the Committee noted the Senate does not keep records respecting individual settlements, and is therefore reliant on the data provided by the Office of Compliance. “It should be noted that the Senate – unlike the House – does not have its own records of individual settlements and therefore cannot independently verify the accuracy of the data provided by the OOC,” the report reads.
 

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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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