Democratic Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), currently the longest-serving congressman, settled after complaints came forward that he made unwanted sexual advances, according to a new report.
Conyers settled a 2015 wrongful dismissal complaint after a former employee said she was fired because she didn't "succumb to [his] sexual advances."
BuzzFeed obtained documents related to the case, which included four signed affidavits from former employees. The documents allege Conyers made sexual advances on female staffers, made requests for sexual favors, inappropriately touched them and had staff arrange transportation for women they believed Conyers was having affairs with. Three of the affidavits were notarized.
The woman who settled in 2015, whose name was withheld at her request, said that after her firing she faced a "daunting process," which ultimately led to her accepting a confidentiality agreement and an approximately $27,000 settlement.
"I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go," the woman said.
In her complaint, the former employee said Conyers repeatedly asked her for sexual favors and often asked her to join him in a hotel room. On one occasion, she alleges that Conyers asked her to work out of his room for the evening, but when she arrived the congressman started talking about his sexual desires. She alleged he then told her she needed to "touch it," in reference to his penis, or find him a woman who would meet his sexual demands.
She alleged Conyers made her work nights, evenings, and holidays to keep him company.
In another incident, the former employee alleged the congressman insisted she stay in his room while they traveled together for a fundraising event. When she told him that she would not stay with him, she alleged he told her to "just cuddle up with me and caress me before you go."
"Rep. Conyers strongly postulated that the performing of personal service or favors would be looked upon favorably and lead to salary increases or promotions," the former employee said in the documents.
A number of former staffers BuzzFeed spoke to were frustrated with the secretive nature of the complaint process, and said Conyers' reputation made people "fearful to speak out."
"I don’t think any allegations should be buried…and that’s for anyone, not just for this particular office, because it doesn’t really allow other people to see who these individuals are," said one former staffer. "When you make private settlements, it doesn’t warn the next woman or the next person going into that situation."
Another staffer said Conyers’ reputation made people fearful to speak out against him. Aside from being the longest-serving House member and the ranking member of a powerful committee, Conyers is a civil rights icon. He was lauded by Martin Luther King Jr. and is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
"Your story won’t do shit to him," said the staffer. "He’s untouchable."
A key difference in the case, compared to many settlements the Office of Compliance deals with, was that the $27,000 came from Conyers' office budget rather than from the Office of Compliance's designated fund for settlements.
Recent reports have shown the Office of Compliance has paid 264 settlements for a total of $17 million of taxpayer funds over the past 20 years.
The woman's settlement was paid by rehiring her as a "temporary employee" for three months, but during that time, she wasn't expected to go into the office or do any work.
Conyers did not admit fault as part of the settlement. His office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from BuzzFeed on Monday.