Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand faced #MeToo complaint in own office: report

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand faced #MeToo complaint in own office: report


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spoke to reporters on Wed., Jan. 16, 2018, in Brunswick, N.Y., a day after launching her campaign for president.
Jon Campbell,

ALBANY – Long a leader against sexual harassment in the workplace, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is now facing questions over how she handled a case last year in her own office, a new report Monday said.

Gillibrand is being criticized by a former female aide who made complaints about a senior male staffer in Gillibrand’s Washington office as she runs for president, Politico reported Monday.

In July, the staffer alleged one of Gillibrand’s closest aides made unwelcome advances after he was promoted by the New York senator, Politico reported.

But about three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment and claims that she faced retaliation for raising concerns, she resigned.

Politico did not name the female aide, saying she fears retaliation and damage to her career.

Gillibrand said the case was properly handled.

What are the accusations?

The report comes as Gillibrand tours the country as she explores a run for president. She has made sexual harassment and abuse in the military, in colleges and in the workplace a top priority since she took office in 2009.

“These are challenges that affect all of our nation’s workplaces, including mine, and the question is whether or not they are taken seriously,” she said in a statement.

“As I have long said, when allegations are made in the workplace, we must believe women so that serious investigations can actually take place, we can learn the facts, and there can be appropriate accountability. That’s exactly what happened at every step of this case last year. I told her that we loved her at the time and the same is true today.”

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Her office said “at every step of the process” immediate action was taken in the case.

It said the allegations were investigated in consultation with Senate Employment Counsel.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks during a meet-and-greet with local residents, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo: Charlie Neibergall, AP)

How the case was handled

The review found employee misconduct that, while inappropriate, did not meet the standard for sexual harassment, her office said.

“However, because the office did find unprofessional behavior that violated office policy, including derogatory comments, the office took strong disciplinary action against the employee in question and he was given a final warning,” spokeswoman Whitney Mitchell Brennan said in a statement.

While the male aide, Abbas Malik, kept his job, Politico reported it found additional allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct.

Then Malik, one of Gillibrand’s closest aides and who is married, was fired after a new investigation, her office said.

“Recently, we learned of never-before-reported and deeply troubling comments allegedly made by this same individual,” Brennan said.

“The office immediately began another investigation and interviewed relevant witnesses, which has led to the office terminating the employee from staff last week.”

More: Kirsten Gillibrand vowed to serve a full Senate term. Does it matter?

Running for president?


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks at an MLK Jr. Day Celebration at the National Action Network in Manhattan on Mon., Jan. 21, 2019.
Associated Press, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Gillibrand announced her presidential exploratory committee in January, and she has been credited for fighting against sexual harassment in Congress, well before the #MeToo movement.

In recent weeks, Gillibrand has toured Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire hoping to distinguish herself in the crowded field. So far, she has barely registered in the Democratic primary polls.

Despite the case in her office, Brennan said Gillibrand is “committed to ensuring allegations are handled seriously, investigated, and followed by appropriate punishment, which is why she helped pass stronger sexual harassment protections in Congress and prioritizes proper harassment training to better prevent these occurrences and encourage future reporting.”

More: In battle with Trump, Gillibrand emerges as national figure

More: Kirsten Gillibrand makes it official: She’s running for president in 2020

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