Speed Reads

silence of the interns

Capitol Hill interns must sign nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from reporting sexual harassment

Many unpaid interns on Capitol Hill are required to sign nondisclosure agreements that bar them from discussing their experiences working for lawmakers — including reports of abuse or harassment. The language in the agreements is abnormally broad, discouraging interns from speaking up about mistreatment, Vox reported Monday.

Lawyers who reviewed two examples of such NDAs found that the agreements made unusually sweeping confidentiality requirements. The documents require that interns not discuss anything about anyone on staff, Vox reported, rather than simply the lawmaker, and the agreement stipulations continue to apply even after an intern has left the Hill.

Congressional interns are unpaid, meaning they don't have access to the official complaint process that most Hill employees can use in cases of abuse or misconduct.

The House passed an overhaul of its sexual harassment policy in February, updating the 1995 rules that many staffers said were overly complicated and lacked transparency. Lawmakers like Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) have resigned in recent months in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, sparking new scrutiny towards harassment protections for Hill staffers. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce a bill that would give interns more rights in filing sexual harassment claims.