U.S. Senate Offices Paid to Settle 13 Claims Since 1998

Offices of U.S. senators reached 13 employment-related discrimination or harassment settlements that totaled nearly $600,000 paid by taxpayer funds over two decades, according to data released jointly by the Senate Rules and Appropriations Committees.

The cases stemmed from a variety of workplace claims including age, race and disability discrimination. There was one settlement over sex discrimination allegations that totaled $14,260, but the biggest single outlay for an office -- $267,750 -- settled complaints of violations of requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs areas like overtime pay, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

There were no names or other identifying information in the document, which was provided through the two committees from the Senate’s Office of Compliance and spanned fiscal years 1998 to 2017. A statement from the leaders of the panels noted that the Senate doesn’t keep its own records of individual settlements so it couldn’t independently verify the accuracy of the data.

The data were released after requests from media organizations about employment-related settlements in Congress after reports that Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, paid a sexual harassment severance payment to a worker who alleged he harassed her. Conyers, who faced numerous allegations, retired under pressure from House Democratic leaders.

He is one of a host of lawmakers affected since the ground shifted in recent months regarding accusations of sexual harassment.

Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, resigned this month to end turmoil over allegations that he groped or tried to forcibly kiss several women. More than half his Democratic colleagues demanded he step down. Representative Trent Franks of Arizona said he’ll resign at the end of January and said the House Ethics Committee was investigating him for discussing surrogate motherhood with two female staff members. Several other House lawmakers are facing ethics probes into harassment allegations.

The settlement data released today did not name the accused because “it has been our priority to protect the victims involved in these settlements from further harm,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said in a statement. It wasn’t clear if lawmakers themselves were accused of various types of employment discrimination, or people who worked for them.

The data showed that age discrimination was the most prevalent issue in settled cases during the 20 years examined, with seven of the 13 member-office complaints including that type of allegation.

In addition to the $599,252 paid by member-led offices, the panels also disclosed 10 other settlements reaching $853,225 involving employees in other types of offices in the Senate.

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