Letter to the Editor: So Frustrated I Could Scream

Let me see if I have this right. Paul Ryan is calling for sexual harassment training for Congress. So, if I have it right, Congress will be trained in how to comply with a law it conceived and passed. Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?

I’ll bet very few people know that Congress exempted itself and its agencies from compliance with the civil rights, labor, health and safety laws it passed. For example, it exempted itself from OSHA, age discrimination and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which prohibits sexual harassment) to name a few. As disingenuous as this is Congress literally put itself above the law.

This was the case for decades until passage in 1995 of the Congressional Accountability Act which made these laws applicable to Congress. It established an office of compliance with 20 people (doe this tells us the volume of complaints they anticipated?) to administer and enforce the law. The act allows only restricted access to discrimination and labor laws. The claim must be filed with the compliance office within 180 days of the incident or be barred. The victim (yes, the victim!) must go through counseling. Within 15 days of the end of counseling a request to mediate must be filed or the clam is barred. If a negative finding results from mediation a suit must be filed within 90 days or be barred.

All the while it requires that the complaint be kept confidential. So, if mediation results in an award of damages, that’s confidential too. Now we find out we’re paying these damages in addition to congress’ salaries and the costs of the office of compliance to handle their misdeeds. Oh yes! H. R. 4155 the Congressional Sexual Harassment Training Act has been introduced. That’s right, Congress finds it necessary to pass a law requiring it to learn how to comply with a law it passed. Our hard-earned tax dollars are paying for these yahoos we elect. Doesn’t it make you want to scream with frustration?


John Fletcher

Ellison Bay, Wis.

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