It seems that another top Democrat in Congress is accused of hushing-up a potential workplace scandal.
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), set up a taxpayer-funded “severance package” in 2015 for one of his female staffers after she had threatened to sue him for fostering a “hostile workplace environment” due to his drinking habits, according to The Washington Times.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Congress’ Office of Compliance has been the focal point for outrage on Capitol Hill. Recent reports show that the office paid out millions of dollars in settlements for hundreds of cases – many of them involving allegations of sexual abuse – while required victims to sign a confidentiality agreement preventing them from discussing the matter.
Another case has emerged regarding a female staffer of Congressman Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), who managed to negotiate a deal to give $48,395 – equal to five additional months’ pay – to one of his female aides who left her job after three months.
“Rep. Raul M. Grijalva quietly arranged a “severance package” (taxpayer funded settlement) in 2015 for one of his top staffers who threatened a lawsuit claiming the Arizona Democrat was frequently drunk and created a hostile workplace environment,” tweeted Nick Short, a media and international affairs analyst who summarized the situation aptly.
Melanie Sloan, an ethics lawyer in Washington who claims to have been victimized by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), said: “It seems like all of these House bodies are designed to help cover for members of Congress. A large part of the problem is that each member of Congress can treat their staff as their own fiefdom and also know that it will remain silent.”
When the female staffer hired a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit against the Arizona Democrat, Mr. Grijalva halted her salary as part of a strategy to force her to settle the matter. The congressman said that the pay was an agreement reached without lodging a complaint with the Office of Compliance.
“On the advice of House Employment Counsel, I provided a severance package to a former employee who resigned. The severance did not involve the Office of Compliance and at no time was any allegation of sexual harassment made, and no sexual harassment occurred,” Mr. Grijalva said in an email to The Washington Times.
“Under the terms of the agreement, had there been an allegation of sexual harassment, the employee would have been free to report it. Regrettably, for me to provide any further details on this matter would violate the agreement,” he said.
However, it seems that paying off this female staffer violates House rules that prohibit a Congress member from retaining “an employee who does not perform duties for the offices of the employing authority commensurate with the compensation such employee receives.”
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva is the latest Congressman accused of using taxpayer funds to silence his former staffer. Should members of Congress face consequences for using taxpayer funds to silence accusers?
Mr. Grijalva’s case comes amidst a sea of accusations and investigations concerning workplace harassment cases that have been covered up. Both Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), stand accused of sexually inappropriate behavior, with the former paying a staffer more than $27,000 to buy her silence after he fired her for refusing to yield to sexual advances.
As Congress continues to roil from these long-suppressed accusations, the American people are getting increasingly fed up with this disgusting behavior from US leaders.