Debra Katz Discusses Harassment on Capitol Hill

Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Debra Katz was quoted in a Roll Call article entitled, "Predatory Behavior: The Dark Side of Capitol Hill." In the article, author Erin Bacon discusses the history and pervasive nature of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.  She notes, "In Washington, 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." Commenting on the issue, Ms. Katz said, "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.'" In addition, Ms. Katz noted that employees on Capitol Hill know that filing a complaint can be career-ending. "People tend to suck it up and live with harassment or try to get a position elsewhere rather than bringing a case," she said. 

While the Office of Compliance offers employees a few means of redress, Ms. Katz contended that the process is not conducive to reporting harassment. “You need a mechanism that’s very user-friendly and many people feel the OOC is not really there to serve their interests,” she said. “They make people go through a confidential mediation process. I know of no such requirement in any other agency. And that’s clearly designed to protect members of Congress and their staff.” Bacon noted, "In most federal offices outside Capitol Hill, an employee has 45 days after an incident of sexual harassment to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission." Congress has created different enforcement mechanisms, making it more difficult for victims of harassment to file complaints. For more information on this story, click here.