Members of Congress allegedly sexually harassed night shift custodial staff as they cleaned their offices, according to a recent inspector general’s report on sexual harassment within the Architect of the Capitol.
The IG report, first reported by Roll Call, examines the Architect of the Capitol’s (AOC) response to sexual harassment complaints over the last 10 years. It includes allegations that workers endured sexual harassment by members of Congress and their staff,
“Staff have reported overhearing harassing conversations, being the target of harassment, and observing materials such as pornography, but do not speak up due to fear of losing their jobs,” the report says.
It found 57 incidents of sexual harassment reported since 2008, 44 percent of which it says were substantiated. The report notes that it is a relatively low number, but the perception remains that harassment is a problem.
The IG said that it found “reluctance to cooperate” with the inquiry from AOC, and cited it as evidence of “cultural resistance and lack of transparency at all levels.” It blasted an “outdated cultural attitude” in some departments, which it said has set a tone of “permissibility.”
In its introduction the IG report says that the results of the inquiry were “primarily positive” and said that the majority of identified gaps were already receiving attention of officials.
Roll Call reported that Congress embarked on a mission in 2017-8 to overhaul the reporting of harassment for staffers on Capitol Hill, discussing in particular the imbalance of power that can occur when a lawmaker harasses a low-level employee.
“No one had an answer when we asked ‘What happens if the harasser is a member of Congress?’” one employee told the IG. “This was not a hypothetical question. It happens.”
The outlet notes that dozens of lawmakers reportedly sleep in their offices rather than rent an apartment, some sleep of mattresses, futons and murphy bed — meaning that night staff can possibly encounter lawmakers in states of undress.