The Sexual Harassment Problem within DC Lobbying

Katz, Marshall & Banks partners Debra Katz and Lisa Banks were quoted in an article for The Hill, titled “Women speak of pervasive harassment in DC lobbying culture.”

The article features stories from women who have worked in the DC lobbying sector – commonly referred to as “K Street” – and have been subjected to pervasive sexual harassment. The women recall times during job interviews, fundraisers, and other work related events where they had to endure unwanted touching, comments, and other forms of sexual harassment. Rarely did any of them report the behavior to human resources or a superior.

Success in lobbying is often tied to relationships and power, both of which discourage speaking up about sexual harassment. “Harassment is sometimes about power,” explains Ms. Banks. “There’s a power differential in Washington, and most of those people are men. It’s certainly an environment that’s ripe for this, but it’s also a horrible scenario.”

The countless stories of degrading behavior are not only terrible press for lobbying firms, they could also create legal troubles.  ”Employers are legally obligated to protect employees from abuse,” says Ms. Katz.

“If they become aware that a board member, an elected official or even a client has acted inappropriately or sexually harassed an employee, the employer has the obligation to take corrective measures.”

Additionally, it is common for victims to experience illegal retaliation if they do choose to report harassment. But as with other industries across the county, the #MeToo movement is changing expectations of what is appropriate behavior and what can lead to serious consequences.

Read the full story here.