The former communications director for Rep. Blake Farenthold told reporters her political career was sidelined after accusing the Republican of sexual harassment.
“I was told right away that I would be, quote-unquote, ‘blackballed’ if I came forward […] That’s exactly what happened,” Laura Greene told Politico in a Monday interview. She added that she’d first levied accusations against the lawmaker in 2014.
Starting off as an intern in 2009, Greene slowly worked her way up Capitol Hill. After five years, she was promoted to communications director for Rep. Farenthold.
But after she lodged a complaint against the conservative politician, Greene found herself practically unemployable. Nobody in Congress would hire her, and she ran into repeated obstacles trying to find a new job in politics.
“It’s definitely turned my life upside-down,” said Greene.
The Hill reports that, early on Monday, Farenthold said he’d been paying back taxpayers the $84,000 for Greene’s settlement.
Farenthold – like many other congressmen accused of sexual harassment and assault – took cash from taxpayer-funded accounts to meet the needs of what was once a confidential settlement. Since October, increasing numbers of prominent lawmakers on Capitol Hill have come under scrutiny for allegedly covering up harassment lawsuits and pay-outs.
Greene first filed a suit against Farenthold in 2014, accusing the Texas conservative of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and creating a hostile work environment. She claims another aide told her that Farenthold’s behavior wasn’t out-of-the-ordinary – that staffer had been invited into the politician’s office and subjected to a strange diatribe about his “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams.”
Farenthold apparently ended the conversation by inviting the other aide to wear shirts which showed her nipples “anytime she wanted.”
Since Greene signed off on a confidentiality agreement before settling with Farenthold, she couldn’t discuss the particulars of her case with media. But she said the repercussions of bringing a complaint against the Republican have followed her far from the Beltway.
The former rising star and communications director told Politico that, after leaving Farenthold’s office, she used to keep an Excel spreadsheet documenting all the positions for which she’d applied.
“I stopped updating it because it was so depressing,” lamented Greene, who’s sure the sexual harassment settlement is keeping her from finding employment. She says her suspicion was solidified when one prospective employer told her outright that she wasn’t being considered for the job due to her having filed a sexual harassment complaint against a member of Congress.
The national legislature, unlike private corporations, does not have a human resources department tasked with investigating sexual harassment and gender discrimination complaints.
Men and women who claim to be victims of unscrupulous congressmen have to submit to a lengthy and tiring process of arbitrations and mediation. Everyone who enters the pipeline has to sign confidentiality agreements.
Lodging a complaint and seeing it through can take months. Oftentimes, congressmen accused of sexual harassment can get away with the same offenses time and time again, due to the confidential nature of the settlements and pay-outs.