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Harassment Allegations Made Against Rep. John Conyers

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Democratic Rep. John Conyers settled an wrongful dismissal claim in 2015 with a former female staffer who had accused the congressman of sexual harassment.

The unnamed female employee alleged that she was fired by Conyers after she refused to "succumb to [his] sexual advances," BuzzFeed News reported.

Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, acknowledged paying out the settlement, but added that he "vehemently denied" the sexual harassment accusations and continues to do so.

According to the woman, Congress' system for dealing with sexual harassment allegations is a major contributing factor in preventing such stories from coming to light.

"I was basically blackballed," she told BuzzFeed. "There was nowhere I could go."

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The settlement agreed upon between Conyers' office and the woman was worth around $27,000. Conyers agreed to "rehire" the woman as a  "temporary employee" for three months and pay her from his office's budget.

Matthew Peterson, a law clerk who represented the complainant, said the process was "disgusting."

"It is a designed cover-up," added Peterson. "You feel like they were betrayed by their government just for coming forward. It's like being abused twice."

The woman said Conyers often asked her for sexual favors. She alleged that on one occasion, Conyers asked her to work out of his hotel room for the evening. When she arrived, Conyers allegedly began talking about his sexual fantasies.

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One of the documents in the wrongful dismissal case came from another female employee, who alleged Conyers had affairs with several women.

"One of my duties while working for Rep. Conyers was to keep a list of women that I assumed he was having affairs with and call them at his request and, if necessary, have them flown in using Congressional resources," the woman said.

The Office of Compliance is responsible for handling any sexual harassment claims brought by employees in Congress.

"Pursuant to the Congressional Accountability Act, the OOC cannot comment on whether matters have or have not been filed with the office," said Laura Cech, publications and outreach manager of the Office of Compliance, when asked about the Conyers case.

The Office of Compliance has warned Congress on several occasions that it is failing to do enough to combat sexual harassment, USA Today reported. It even ordered mandatory harassment training for all offices.

"Finally, somebody's hearing us," Susan Tsui Gundmann, the office's executive director, told USA Today. "This is great that after seven years of making recommendations to Congress that we have been heard and they are undertaking the training."

Sources: BuzzFeed News, USA Today / Featured Image: Gregory Varnum/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Kmccoy/ via Wikimedia Commons, Gregory Varnum/Wikimedia Commons

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