If you’ve been watching cable news in the past few weeks, it’s likely you have heard about what networks are calling Congress’ settlement 'slush fund."
Misleading reports are spreading false information that a taxpayer funded $17.1 million has been paid out to settle cases of sexual harassment against members of Congress and congressional staffers. This is untrue.
While some of this was used to settle alleged discrimination, only a very small amount was used to settle cases of sexual harassment.
In the last five years, there has only been one case that alleged sexual harassment and two that alleged sex discrimination. The point of this week’s column is to expose this fake news and set the record straight.
Since 1997, 17 million in taxpayer dollars has been spent to resolve disputes between employers and employees on Capitol Hill. This settlement fund covers all of the employees that work in and around Capitol Hill.
For example, this includes members of Capitol Police, construction workers with the Architect of the Capitol, employees at the Congressional Research Service, General Accountability Office, and Congressional Budget Office, IT technicians, and congressional member offices.
The Committee on House Administration has asked the Office of Compliance (OOC) for a full breakdown of the $17 million in funds that were distributed.
At this point in time, they have released records dating back to Fiscal Year 2013.
Since then, the Awards and Settlement Fund has paid out $359,450 for six claims against House Member-led offices. Only one of those claims alleged sexual harassment and was settled for $84,000. Two of those claims alleged sex discrimination in the workplace.
The additional discrimination settlements paid out of this fund were related to discrimination based on age, religion, race, national origin, military service, and veteran status.
In 2002, millions were paid out of the fund to pay damages, including emotional distress and medical expenses, to Capitol Hill employees after the employees were exposed to anthrax and asbestos.
Just as a business must sometimes agree to settle with employees who may have been injured on the job or fired unfairly, so too does Capitol Hill.
However, it is inexcusable for taxpayers to be on the hook for sexual harassment charges and corresponding settlements by any individual on Capitol Hill, much less members of Congress.
As a workplace that employs thousands of people day in and day out, we will continue to follow guidance put forth by the Committee on House Administration and the Office of Compliance in order to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for all of our employees.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701