When #MeToo Comes For One Of Its Own
The candidate pool for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination continues to fill out, and recently one of those candidates, United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, has come under fire as to how her own Senate office handled accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace.
On March 11, 2019, Politico broke the story that in the summer of 2018, a twentysomething—year old female aide resigned from Sen. Gillibrand’s office in protest of how Sen. Gillibrand’s office handled that aide’s allegations that she had been sexually harassed by another aide on Sen. Gillibrand’s staff. The female aide alleged that a male aide, who was married and over 10 years older than her, repeatedly made unwelcome sexual advances towards her, and made sexist and inappropriate remarks about other female staffers. The female aide stated that when she reported this to a senior member of Sen. Gillibrand’s staff, an investigation was conducted by members of the staff, and that the investigation ended with a conclusion that “the behavior (by the male aide) did not meet the standard of sexual harassment.” Shortly after this finding, the female aide resigned her position, writing in her resignation letter that “I have offered my resignation because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled. I trusted and leaned on this statement that you (Sen. Gillibrand) made: ‘You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is O.K. None of it is acceptable.’ Your office chose to go against your public belief that women shouldn’t accept sexual harassment in any form and portrayed my experience as a misinterpretation instead of what it actually was: harassment and ultimately, intimidation.”
A flurry of political pundits and op-ed writers have weighed in as to what these allegations mean for Sen. Gillibrand’s Presidential bid, especially considering her very vocal support of the #MeToo movement, and the measures that she introduced in the United States Senate to help combat sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. A Washington Post op-ed, written by columnist Marc A. Thiessen, issued a scathing rebuke of Sen. Gillibrand’s handling of the matter, writing, “The fact is, while publicly positioning herself as a champion of harassment victims, Gillibrand apparently allowed a serial harasser to torment her female staff.” Doug Forand, a co-founder and senior partner of progressive consulting firm Red Horse Strategies, gave his opinion as well, stating, “Reading this piece, it comes across like countless other similar allegations that result in victims feeling like they were not heard and that their claims were not properly investigated. Relying on staff to conduct the investigation was a fundamental mistake, not only because they have their own conflicting interests and relationships, but also because in all likelihood they have no training or experience in conducting these types of investigations. And the defense they offer for the way it was done reads like exactly the kinds of excuses Sen. Gillibrand has criticized in others.”
The Triangle Takeaway
In order to maintain the integrity of misconduct investigations, best practices require that the investigation be handled by an independent and expert-level group of investigators. These 3rd-party investigations help to ensure fairness for the person making the allegations, and decrease the possibility of the alleged victim claiming office politics or a cover-up.
The team at Triangle Investigations is an independent group of expert investigators, committed to conducting thorough and thoughtful investigations that inure to the benefit of a whole organization, including management and general staff.