CNN Breaking News: Congressman John Conyers Office Paid Harassment Settlement : Charlie Rose

CNN Breaking News: Congressman John Conyers Office Paid Harassment  Settlement : Charlie Rose
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CNN Breaking News: Congressman John Conyers Office Paid Harassment Settlement : Charlie Rose - Video during: 00:17:18

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, 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. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

Rep. John Conyers speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 45th annual legislative conference, Washington, DC, September 18, 2015.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Rep. John Conyers speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 45th annual legislative conference, Washington, DC, September 18, 2015.
And the documents also reveal the secret mechanism by which Congress has kept an unknown number of sexual harassment allegations secret: a grinding, closely held process that left the alleged victim feeling, she told BuzzFeed News, that she had no option other than to stay quiet and accept a settlement offered to her.

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“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” she said in a phone interview. BuzzFeed News is withholding the woman’s name at her request because she said she fears retribution.

Last week the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment. The Conyers documents, however, give a glimpse into the inner workings of the office, which has for decades concealed episodes of sexual abuse by powerful political figures.

"I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go."
The woman who settled with Conyers launched the complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014, alleging she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and ended up facing a daunting process that ended with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000. Her settlement, however, came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.

Congress has no human resources department. Instead, congressional employees have 180 days to report a sexual harassment incident to the Office of Compliance, which then leads to a lengthy process that involves counseling and mediation, and requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a complaint can go forward.

CNN Breaking News: Congressman John Conyers Office Paid Harassment  Settlement : Charlie Rose

CNN Breaking News: Congressman John Conyers Office Paid Harassment Settlement : Charlie Rose