Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) had already required everyone in the Marianas congressional office to take anti-sexual harassment training, when Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) sent word Tuesday that the training would now be mandatory for all members and staff of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ryan’s announcement came on the same day that Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California) testified at a hearing of the House Committee on Administration that two sitting members, a Republican and a Democrat, have engaged in sexual harassment and that the House has paid out some $15 million to victims.
“Even though our employee handbook that governs the conduct of the Marianas office explicitly prohibits any form of sexual harassment and sets out the actions to take by anyone who has been harassed, it was my belief that more active measures were needed,” Sablan said. “So I required that all of the congressional staff take the training the chief administrative officer of the House makes available online and provide my chief of staff with their certification of completion.
“I completed the course, too,” Sablan added. “We all have to heighten our awareness of how sexual harassment can occur and make sure that everyone feels safe in their work environment.”
The Marianas congressional office’s employee handbook, which is provided to every staff when they join the office, sets out what to do in the event of harassment.
“It is the intention of the office to stop harassment before it rises to the level of a violation of law,” the handbook reads. “Any employee who believes that he/she has been subjected to or has witnessed actions that violate this policy should promptly make a report to the office management in order for management to immediately investigate and take corrective action where appropriate.”
In her testimony, Speier also revealed that, while working in a congressional office in the 1970s, she herself had been sexually assaulted by the office chief of staff.
“Sexual harassment—or harassment based on race or age or disability—can creep into the workplace,” Sablan said. “It does not have to be overt, as the actions Rep. Speier experienced as a staff person.
“Even if we think we are just kidding around, our words or actions can intimidate or demean the people we work with. And that behavior cannot be tolerated.
“That is why I required everyone—including myself—to take the training. We have to be vigilant of how we conduct ourselves and aware of the effect of our words and actions on those we work with.”
Sablan is a cosponsor of the Congressional Sexual Harassment Training Act, led by Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Michigan). This bill requires each congressional office to inform employees of the rights the Act provides them against sexual harassment.
Throughout his career Sablan has focused on issues of violence against women, increasing funding for the Marianas Domestic Violence Coalition in 2010 and in 2013 for the Sexual Assault Services Program in the Northern Marianas. (PR)