If Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) were a man, her days remaining in Congress would certainly be very numbered, in light of the hostile environment for women her Congressional office is accused of once having, and not very long ago. Furthermore, it remained that way long after she knew that her Chief of Staff was accused of creating a hostile work environment, particularly for female staffers.
In a statement that the USA Daily Chronicles obtained, Esty said:
“In the spring of 2016, I was horrified and angry to learn that a promising, dedicated former employee of mine was harassed and harmed by my then (now former) chief of staff. I am sorry that I failed to protect her and provide her with the safe and respectful work environment that every employee deserves. I am sorry that I hurt her, her friends, family, and co-workers, and many of my present and former staffers.
“To address the immediate crisis, I demanded counseling for my offending chief of staff and I launched an internal review of management policy and practices and an investigation into what was going on in the office. I also took a hard look at how I allowed my office to be run.
“Unfortunately, through the review process I learned that the threat of violence was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of behavior that victimized many of the women on my staff. At which point, I hired a new chief of staff, made changes to senior staff, changed employment policy, and instituted mandatory harassment trainings.
“To this survivor, and to anyone else on my team who was hurt by my failure to see what was going on in my office, I am so sorry.
“I’ve asked myself over and over again, how did I not see this? How could I have let down so many people?
“Equality and fairness are values I’ve held long before I came to Congress. Now that I am in Congress, it is my responsibility to run an office that is not only safe, but upholds those values and respects staff and their work on behalf of the people of the 5th Congressional District. I’m inspired by the courage this young woman is demonstrating by speaking up – in the one company town of DC – to say MeToo.
“It took guts for my former staffer, this survivor, to speak up, and I want to support her and other survivors. I know that Survivors come first – we need to believe them and support them. And we need to include survivors and allies alike in the conversation about how to implement the changes necessary both in Congress and more broadly to prevent this from happening again.
“I know firsthand that we need stronger workplace protections, and to provide employees with a platform to raise concerns. But that’s not enough. Those concerns must be listened to. And people in power must take action.
“Now that I know, I must do better. We all must do better.”
So people are asking, “you did not know in 2016?” How could she allow vulnerable staff members spend months under the leadership of a Chief of Staff, known to create a toxic environment, months after she was aware of the situation?
As stated, it is likely that if this were a male member of Congress, he would be history — quickly and with few questions asked. The jury is out on Esty’s future though.
Esty’s spin on the issue appears to try to lighten her role and the implications of her inaction. The Daily Caller goes deeper in assessing her poor judgement:
“Democratic Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty is facing increasing pressure to resign over her handling of an abusive chief of staff, who was allowed to remain on staff for three months after being accused of punching a female staffer and threatening to kill her.
“Not only did Esty allow her former chief of staff, Tony Baker, to remain in his paid position for months after the accusations, she also wrote a positive recommendation to help him land his next job at Sandy Hook Promise, a Connecticut-based nonprofit.”
Not surprisingly, the National Republican Congressional Committee is calling for Esty’s resignation. But unless she gets significant pressure from major players in her own camp, it is likely she will not be going anywhere.
Esty was among members of Congress leading the charge, calling for the resignation of Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for having a toxic situation in his office. The Connecticut newspaper, the Hartford Courant is also calling for the Congresswoman to resign. She has said she has no intention to leave. It will be interesting to see whether other Democrats will hold Esty accountable.
UPDATE: Esty announced today that she will not seek re-election. Pressure will likely remain for her to exit before her term ends.