Details about Senate settlements emerge, but answer few questions

While some details are out, questions remain.

— -- In the past 20 years, the Office of Compliance has awarded $1.4 million in secret payments to settle a total of 23 cases related to employment disputes within Senate offices, according to figures released by the Senate Rules and Appropriations Committees.

The largest single award was for a case related to “race discrimination and reprisal” for $421,225.

The limited statistics on employment dispute settlements sheds little light on the amount paid out to settle sexual harassment claims.

The categories listed do not separate out “sexual harassment,” as similar Office of Compliance statistics about the House of Representatives did. The Senate statistics do include cases of “sex discrimination”, but those could have nothing to do with sexual misconduct.

The Office of Compliance lumped together all cases involving sex/gender discrimination, which they described in their response to Sen. Tim Kaine’s letter requesting information on sexual harassment claims.

“Traditionally, the OOC has not separated allegations of sexual harassment from those involving sex-based disparate treatment or pregnancy discrimination… there are claims classified as sex discrimination which may not involve allegations of sexual harassment, such as claims of disparate treatment based on sex,” the Office of Compliance wrote.

There are four claims, settled for a total of $70,260.25, that are related to “sex discrimination” but each also includes additional categories, including “Fair Labor Standards Act violation” and “disability discrimination.”

The House may have had more information about sexual harassment cases at hand because the House Administration Committee signs off on each settlement reached, while the counterpart Senate committees do not.

The Office of Compliance has previously disclosed that it has paid out $17 million in taxpayer dollars over 20 years to settle workplace complaints in Congress and the legislative branch.