“7 Habits” Firm to Train Congress on Sex Harassment

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By Chris Opfer

The House has hired the consulting firm launched by “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” author Stephen Covey to train lawmakers and their staffs on sexual harassment in the workplace.

FranklinCovey, an “organizational performance improvement” firm, was recently awarded the contract to provide in-person harassment training for some 11,000 lawmakers and congressional employees in Washington and district offices, a House administration official told Bloomberg Law.

The move comes in the wake of a wave of sexual harassment allegations against members of Congress, including former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), former Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and outgoing Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.).

The 90-minute training sessions will focus on “creating a more civil workplace,” according to bid solicitation documents. That includes making employees aware of their rights and the multiple avenues for reporting misconduct, as well as instructing members of Congress and managers about how to identify and prevent harassing behavior.

FranklinCovey was established in 1997, when Stephen Covey’s consulting firm merged with Franklin Quest. Covey, known for writing the best-selling self-improvement book, died in 2012. The firm has helped thousands of businesses “achieve results that require a change in human behavior,” according to its website.

FranklinCovey spokeswoman Debra Lund declined to comment, citing the firm’s client confidentiality policy.

The House request for bids on the training contract makes clear that trainers aren’t expected to provide legal advice. The trainers won’t handle or investigate sexual harassment complaints.

Power Disparities a Factor

The House and Senate in November passed resolutions (H.Res. 630, S.Res. 330) requiring all lawmakers and their staffs to undergo sexual harassment training. A separate measure (H.R. 4924) passed by House lawmakers in a February voice vote would scrap requirements that harassment allegations be kept confidential and eliminate required “cooling off” periods that delay investigations by up to 90 days. It would also ban lawmakers from using taxpayer money to cover sexual harassment settlements.

The training, which is set to start this month, will include a discussion of a wide spectrum of harassing behavior from “subtle” to “severe,” according to the bid request information. It will also touch on the risk factors for harassment identified by an 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission task force.

The task force identified several factors that can contribute to workplace harassment, including the lack of diversity in a workforce, cultures in which “high value” employees don’t have to comply with the same rules as others, and situations that involve “significant power disparities” among workers. Much of the #MeToo sexual harassment awareness sparked by allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein have centered on public figures using their power and influence to make untoward sexual advances.

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