What about the Sexual Harassment Enterprise on Capitol Hill?
Recently it was said by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly “needs to go to jail” following a report that O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox had paid $13 million as part of settlement agreements to coworkers and guests on O’Reilly’s show who had accused him of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.
Congresswoman Waters also stated that,
“It shouldn’t be in America that you can sexually harass women and then buy your way out of it because you’re rich. If they continue to do this in the way that they have done, they need to go to jail.”
I’m very grateful that Congresswoman Waters, affectionately dubbed by the millennial media as “Auntie Maxine”, is being so vocal about sexual harassment. Young women, especially #BlackWomenAtWork, entering the workforce are faced with issues like sexual harassment and gender discrimination and would greatly benefit by having a vociferous advocate, such as Auntie Maxine. With her decades of experience navigating the terrain of Capitol Hill, Auntie Maxine could not only provide them with guidance, but “safe passage”. According to Generational Diversity training, the singular most critical thing a millennial can obtain when entering any corporate setting is the guidance of someone born before 1946, who can serve as a mentor/corporate advocate. Millennials often enter the workplace with more credentials than mid-level staff, but lack the organizational history that would make them most effective.
Congresswoman Waters could be the advocate young women across the country need. Especially if she’s willing to hold other workplaces as equally accountable as she holds conservative media outlets. As she said,” it shouldn’t be that you can sexually harass women and buy your way out because you’re rich” But what about those who use their political power to bully their way out?
Is Congresswoman Waters concerned about the scores of women (and men) who are sexually harassed while working on Capitol Hill? What about the sexual harassment enterprise that occurs daily as Congresswoman Waters walks the halls, where too often, inappropriate actions and behavior swept under the rug because the accuser is unpaid staff such as intern or fellow or because the target is threatened by the powerful harasser.
According to CQ NOW, lawyers and activists say that sexual abuse is drastically underreported on Capitol Hill, where they say political pressure and job uncertainty, combined with a weak system to make claims, keep victims quiet. “You’re dealing with high-profile people and people are really afraid,” said Kristin Alden, founder of a Washington firm that specializes in employment law.
Having been on Capitol Hill for over 20 plus years, its certain that Auntie Maxine has seen a few things and knows where many of the bones are buried. So the question is, is she willing to advocate for women who fall prey on Capitol Hill the way she advocates for those who were targeted by Bill O’Reilly. Is Auntie Maxine really comitted to the cause, or are the Bill O’Reilly comments just political posturing??
Signing on to VAWA is great, but doesn’t do much for women working directly on Capitol Hill as the laws that Congress sets for the rest of the country they don’t apply to themselves. The process available to congressional staff for reporting sexual harassment, offered by the Office of Congressional Ethics. The process is not user friendly and requires confidential mediation, which protects the Congressmembers and their staff, rather than having an open investigation as provided by the EEOC.
According to Debra Katz, an employment lawyer at Katz, Marshall & Banks in Washington, the threat of political scandal is a huge incentive for workers to keep quiet.
“There’s a lot of partisan pressure, too, of, ‘Don’t do this to the party, don’t do this to our leadership, don’t embarrass us,’” she said. Katz said people working on Capitol Hill know that making a complaint “is career-ending.” …,“people tend to suck it up and live with harassment or try to get a position elsewhere rather than act bringing a case,” she said.
Michael Kane, a lawyer who works with federal employees, said retaliation is a common side effect of sexual harassment complaints. Is Congresswoman Waters willing to provide women who have been sexually harassed on Capitol Hill with “safe passage”?
While working for the Financial Services Committee in 2014, I shared with the Chief of Staff that I had experienced sexual harassment in a previous office. Shortly thereafter, I was wrongfully terminated in retaliation. It would have been great to have had an advocate in Congresswoman Waters. Instead I suffered in silence, like many women because they are shushed away, told to stay behind closed doors and just find another job. If Congresswoman Waters is as strong an advocate for women sexually harassed on Capitol Hill she could change the trajectory of life for B.A.B.E.s in the Workplace across the country!