In a note to other House representatives, Ryan wrote that “any form of harassment has no place in this institution. Each of us has a responsibility to ensure a workplace that is free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation.”
His letter comes in the wake of stories shared from some Capitol Hill lawmakers of their experiences with harassment, and the confusing and even opaque process currently in place to handle and act on complaints. The revelations about Harvey Weinstein, first detailed in the New York Times and the New Yorker, have triggered an outcry across other industries and in a number of statehouses.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) posted a video on Twitter last week in which she detailed an instance when she was working as a staffer on Capitol Hill and was forced to kiss a man working as a congressional chief of staff. She launched the hashtag #MeTooCongress, a play on the #MeToo social media campaign in which men and women have publicly shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault.
Other lawmakers, including Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), have also come forward. In an interview with the Associated Press, Sanchez described unwanted sexual advances by one unidentified lawmaker, and being groped by another who is no longer in Congress. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and former senator Barbara Boxer have previously shared stories of inappropriate remarks and advances, and this week former representatives Hilda Solis and Mary Bono also recounted experiences.
The concern on Capitol Hill is that sexual harassment policies are unclear and differ from staff to staff. Some Democrats are pushing for legislation that requires training and adds stricter enforcement protections.
The House Administration Committee will hold a hearing on Nov. 14 to review the House’s training and policies.
“This is an important issue and the House of Representatives is committed to preventing any form of harassment.” said Rep. Greg Harper (R-Miss.), the committee’s chairman. “We need to make certain that the House provides the needed sexual harassment awareness training, as well as policies that support a person’s right to report when they have been victimized.”