Politics

Paul Ryan pushes sexual harassment training on the Hill

House speaker says he wants safe workplace

WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday called for House members and staff to step up their sexual harassment training in the wake of bombshell allegations of sexual misconduct that have shaken powerful industries, institutions and organizations across the country.

"I strongly encourage you to complete sexual harassment training and to mandate the training for your staff. We can and should lead by example," Ryan said in a letter to members and staff. "Our goal must be a culture where everyone who works in our offices feels safe and able to fulfill their duties."

Currently there is no requirement for sexual harassment training in the House of Representatives, although each individual office may elect to voluntarily have their staff attend training by the Office of Compliance.

Some, like California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, say it is time to put new rules in place, charging that Capitol Hill is a "breeding ground" for hostility and misconduct. After coming out for the first time last week with her own allegations of sexual assault, which she claims happened 40 years ago as a young Capitol Hill aide, Speier has proposed legislation which would change the House's policy -- including making sexual assault training mandatory for members and their staff.

Ryan's office did not return a request for comment on whether he would support of Speier's legislation. But AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, says he backs a review by the House administration committee.

"The speaker believes the House Administration Committee is right to review the standing procedures and resources available to staff," Strong said in a statement provided to CNN.

The House administration committee has recently launched a review of current sexual harassment training and policies, and the committee announced Friday that it will hold a hearing on the topic Nov. 14.

"We need to make certain that the House provides the needed sexual harassment awareness training, as well as policies that support a person's rights to report when they have been victimized," Chairman Gregg Harper said in a statement Friday.

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced Friday that she is introducing legislation to combat sexual harassment in Congress, which would overhaul the current process staffers take to report sexual harassment.

The legislation would mandate annual sexual harassment training for members and staff, require a "climate survey" to assess the scope of the problem in Congress, give interns access to the same resources as full-time staff, and drop the requirement that victims go through mediation before filing a complaint.

"Congress should never be above the law or play by their own set of rules," Gillibrand said in a statement. "We must ensure that this institution handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers."

CNN's Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.


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