By Kevin Daley
As the Christmas holiday weekend set it, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee released a report revealing the Senate has spent $1.5 million on workplace harassment settlements since 1998.
The data, provided by the Office of Compliance, a little known administrative body that has quietly settled dozens of complaints against congressional offices, provides little by way of details, beyond an itemized list of violations and the corresponding settlement.
GOP Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, who chairs the Rules Committee, said further particulars cannot be made public, in order to respect the confidentiality afforded to victims.
“While the Rules Committee has been eager to provide this information in a transparent manner, it has been our priority to protect the victims involved in these settlements from further harm,” the senator said in a statement attending the report. “I am pleased that we have received assurances from Senate Legal Counsel that the release of this data does not violate confidentiality and as such, are able to make it public.”
The report distinguishes between claims made against member-led offices and “other Senate employing offices.” Individual Senate offices have paid out nearly $600,000 in discrimination and harassment settlements, while other Senate employers paid out over $850,000. Listed violations include sex, age, and race discrimination, as well as violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The largest settlements involved instances of race discrimination.
The report does not include information about the alleged offenders, victims, or relevant incidents. In releasing the data, the Committee noted the Senate does not keep records respecting individual settlements, and is therefore reliant on the OOC’s data.
“It should be noted that the Senate – unlike the House – does not have its own records of individual settlements and therefore cannot independently verify the accuracy of the data provided by the OOC,” the report reads.