House Speaker Paul Ryan called “extremely troubling” a report that Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, settled a complaint in 2015 from a woman who alleged she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances, the Associated Press reports. BuzzFeed News reported that Conyers, 88, paid the woman over $27,000 to settle the complaint under a confidentiality agreement. BuzzFeed published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately —rubbing their legs and backs — or requesting sexual favors. One former staffer said one of her duties 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.”
Ryan (R-WI) said the House is updating its policies for handling complaints of workplace harassment and discrimination, which have been criticized as too weak and cumbersome. His statement did not name Conyers but Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed it was directed at him. “People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination,” Ryan said. BuzzFeed said it received the documents from right-wing activist Mike Cernovich, but independently confirmed their authenticity. Conyers is the longest-serving current member of the House, having arrived in 1965. The government has paid more than $17 million in taxpayer money over the last 20 years to resolve claims of sexual harassment, overtime pay disputes and other workplace violations filed by employees of Congress.