Nearly 30 Senators Respond to 2019 Sexual Harassment Report of Capitol Custodial Staff

Apr 28, 2021
5:44 PM

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Public Domain)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the past week, nearly 30 Senators have now responded to Latino Rebels about a 2019 report chronicling sexual harassment allegations against Capitol custodians.

“My father was a janitor,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told Latino Rebels this week. “We have an obligation to all of our workers. I have not yet seen this report. But I’ll look into it.”

Latino Rebels is asking members of Congress about a 2019 Roll Call story that reported on an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report by the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the federal agency responsible for cleaning the buildings of the Capitol Complex.

According to the 2019 story by Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus, the OIG’s “53-page report includes data on sexual harassment cases within the agency between October 2008 and October 2018.” The Roll Call story said that “some jurisdictions within the agency refused to cooperate with the OIG probe” and that “the report identified 57 incidents of sexual harassment since 2008. The accused included 24 supervisory-level employees. About 44 percent of the complaints were substantiated.”

The same Roll Call report said the following: “No one had an answer when we asked, ‘What happens if the harasser is a member of Congress?’ one AOC worker told investigators in a confidential questionnaire. ‘This was not a hypothetical question. It happens.’”

Specifically, page 32 of the 2019 OIG report said that “…interviews with AOC leadership revealed that some custodial staff (particularly night shift) report exposure to harassment while working in the offices of Members of Congress. Some have complained of being the target of sexual harassment, overhearing harassing conversations and observing materials such as pornography in member offices, but they do not speak up for fear of losing their jobs.”

“That would be distressing if that’s going on,” said Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) when asked by Latino Rebels last week about the OIG report.

“We have to make sure 100% that these guys and gals are doing their job with no monkey business,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said.

When asked if sexual harassment against Capitol custodians should rise to the level of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Tester said that “if there’s more than one case, yeah.”

“If it’s serious, it should be investigated,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) echoed Menendez’s sentiment in a conversation last week with Latino Rebels.

“No one’s doing an investigation?” asked Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), when approached by Latino Rebels last week about the 2019 OIG report.

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in the Senate.

“I think it absolutely is the obligation of this Congress to make sure everybody working for and in this institution is safe and has their human rights and labor rights respected and upheld,” Ossoff told Latino Rebels this week. “My team has pulled the OIG report you referenced. It’s in my briefing book to go through this week.”

“We have to protect all workers,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) said.

Similar responses came from the following Senators, when approached by Latino Rebels about the report over the past week:

  • Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA)
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)
  • Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Sen Joe Manchin (D-WV)
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

“I believe that it’s critically important for all shifts, if folks are here during the day, people who keep this building looking good, keep it safe and prepare the food, they need to be a priority and we should be using every tool at our disposal to make sure we keep them safe, keep them notified,” Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) told Latino Rebels. “If you go back and look at January 6, I was one of the members that was informing some of the cleaning staff, along with a few others as they were moving us to let them know what was happening because they hadn’t even been notified. And so there need to be alert systems, they need to be kept safe, all of it. Whether you’re an employee or you’re a contract worker, absolutely, they need to be prioritized and they need to be treated with as much respect and dignity as any member, as anyone else that’s here in the building.”

“The obligation everybody owes to their fellow man is not to abuse people. That’s just human decency,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Latino Rebels.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would not comment on the OIG report when asked twice this week by Latino Rebels outside of the Senate chamber.

“I don’t know the details you’re raising in the report, but I’m glad you’re raising them,” Sanders said on Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to answer questions or even acknowledge Latino Rebels’ presence when asked outside of the Senate chamber about the OIG report.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told Latino Rebels during her weekly press conference that the chair of the House Administration Committee will meet with the AOC and the OID to discuss the report.

“I look forward to seeing the report,” Pelosi said last Thursday.

The House Administration Committee chair is Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

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Pablo Manríquez is a freelance political journalist based in Washington, D.C. He is an immigrant from Santiago de Chile with a political science degree from the University of Notre Dame. The Washington Post calls him “an Internet folk hero.” Twitter: @PabloReports.