Staffers at the United States Capitol describe a rampant culture of sexual harassment that included pornographic material in lawmakers’ offices and a general fear of reporting misconduct, according to the results of an investigation.
The findings appeared in a probe conducted by an internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, which examined 10 years worth of claims of sexual harassment in the Architect of the Capitol.
The Architect of the Capitol is the department which oversees the preservation and maintenance of the buildings on the grounds of Capitol Hill, including Congress and the Supreme Court.
The report by the OIG alleges that staff members at Architect of the Capitol were exposed to pornographic material in lawmakers’ offices, ABC News reported.
Staff members who worked the overnight shift on Capitol Hill said they were hesitant to report instances of sexual harassment because they didn’t trust the system to adequately investigate, according to a report by an internal watchdog
Staff members also said they were afraid to speak up about instances of inappropriate behavior because they feared retaliation.
During sexual harassment prevention training, one staffer asked ‘What happens if the harasser is a member of Congress?’
The staffer told the OIG that nobody had an answer for that question.
The report by the OIG does not say exactly how many reports were filed against legislators.
Last October, Congress ordered a review of years worth of sexual harassment claims by staff members at Architect of the Capitol.
Congress wanted OIG to look into whether the claims were properly investigated.
OIG found that in a span of 10 years, there were a total of 57 reports of sexual harassment – a figure that is considered low given the size of the workforce at Architect of the Capitol.
The findings appeared in a probe conducted by an internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, which examined 10 years worth of claims of sexual harassment in the Architect of the Capitol. The U.S. Capitol Building is seen in the above stock image
The report admits that workers’ fear of retaliation likely played a part in their reluctance to file more complaints.
According to the report, there is a ‘widespread perception that sexual harassment is a pervasive problem’ within Architect of the Capitol, which investigators say is a product of ‘lingering cultural bias.’
The IOG report says Architect of the Capitol appears ‘to be energetic in its efforts to improve the agency culture and create an environment of civility’ and that ‘the results of our inquiry were primarily positive, with the majority of identified gaps already receiving the attention.’
But the report also notes that employees do not come forward with complaints because they do not trust that the system will mete out proper punishment.
‘The whole system is [designed] to protect the Architect of the Capitol, [the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], Office of Compliance or any other assistance under this Agency,’ one staffer told OIG.