- Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Update 4:40 p.m. Nov. 21: The House Ethics Committee has started an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s urging.
Update 2:30 p.m. Nov. 21: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an ethics investigation Tuesday after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress.
"As members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse,” Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement. “As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the ethics committee.”
Conyers, D-Michigan, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was unaware of any allegations that he acted inappropriately toward women.
BuzzFeed News reported Monday that Conyers’ office paid a $27,000 settlement in 2015 to a woman who claimed she was fired from the lawmaker’s office because she refused his sexual advances.
Original report: U.S. Rep. John Conyers denied on Tuesday that he’s settled sexual harassment complaints by staff members in the wake of a report that his office paid a former female employee $27,000 to settle a harassment-related wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015.
Conyers, D-Michigan, told The Associated Press that he was unaware of any allegations that he has acted inappropriately toward women. He told the news wire that he only learned of the BuzzFeed News report that detailed the complaints on Tuesday morning.
A woman told BuzzFeed that she filed a wrongful dismissal complaint against Conyers in 2014 after he fired because she would not "succumb to (his) sexual advances."
The case was settled in 2015. The woman, who was not identified, signed a confidentiality agreement and was rehired as a temporary employee with no job responsibilities. Over the course of three months, she was paid $27,000, BuzzFeed reported.
Documents from the case included signed affidavits from four other former Conyers staff members who said the lawmaker "repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually and rubbing their legs and backs in public."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, called the BuzzFeed report “extremely troubling” and reiterated that a review of House of Representative workplace harassment and discrimination policies was underway.
Ryan announced last week that the House of Representatives was implementing a new mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training policy for members and staff.
“Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review,” Ryan said Tuesday. “People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination.”
Since 1997, Congress’ Office of Compliance has paid federal employees $17.2 million to settle complaints of employment rule violations, including complaints of sexual harassment, The Washington Post reported. The $27,000 paid to Conyers’ former employee in 2015 is not among those numbers, as the funds came from the representative’s office budget, according to BuzzFeed.
Conyers, who was first elected in 1964, is currently the longest-serving member of Congress, with 52 years of service.
He is the second sitting senator to face accusations of inappropriate conduct toward women. A woman on Monday accused Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, of groping her as they posed for a photograph together at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair. Franken, who was accused last week of forcing himself on a Los Angeles news anchor in 2006, assumed office in 2009.