Alexis Ronickher Interviewed by Democracy Now

November 28, 2017

Katz Banks Kumin partner Alexis Ronickher was interviewed on Democracy Now for a segment on what happens when somebody accuses a Congressperson or staffer of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. This story follows a tumultuous couple of weeks in politics that has seen harassment scandals embroil Representative John Conyers, Senator Al Franken, and Senate candidate Roy Moore.

As it stands, the process for a congressional staffer to bring a sexual harassment claim is extremely unfriendly to victims. The unnecessarily arduous administrative process demands counseling and mediation sessions – both of which must be done totally confidentially – as well as a cooling off period that only delays a staffer from being able to pursue their claim.

This system discourages victims from reporting harassment and does very little to provide justice to those who do decide to go forward with their claim.

Despite a poll revealing the one in six female staffers have experience harassment, “in 2016 only eight Senate and House staffers came forward with any request for counseling… most are not coming forward,” explains Ms. Ronickher.

The clause of confidentiality is unique to Congress’ process, and causes tremendous harm to victims. “[It] isolates the victim of sexual harassment,” says Ms. Ronickher. “It also prevents them from telling other people that they’re moving forward, encouraging other people to move forward with them… and the person just being able to verify that ‘not only am I saying that this happened, but I am taking action’.”

A bipartisan resolution was introduced in the House on Friday that would require sexual harassment training for all members and employees, and for a poster outlining staffers’ rights to be visible in each office. “It is the very smallest of step,” Ms. Ronickher believes. “What really needs to happen is the legislation that Representative Speier and Representation Comstock and Senator Gillibrand have introduced; the Me Too bill that will revise the process. It gets rid of the requirements of someone having to go through the counseling and mandatory mediation. It gets rid of the required confidentiality… It takes care of a lot of the systemic hurdles of the law.”

Watch the full clip below, courtesy of Democracy Now.




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