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Rep. Alcee Hastings escapes sex-harassment ethics charge, gets rapped for bad behavior

via @learyreports at Tampa Bay Times Buzz blog:

The House Ethics Committee today said it was clearing Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, in a sexual harassment case, brought by a female employee of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the
Helsinki Commission.

But the commission admonished Hastings anyway.

"Despite the fact that the conduct in this case does not rise to the level of actionable violations of the rules, the Committee does not want to leave the impression that Representative Hastings' behavior was at all times appropriate. He admitted to some conduct that, while not wrongful per se, certainly could be misunderstood. For example, Representative Hastings admitted that he hugged Complainant on a number of occasions. It is true that a hug, on its own, is not sexual harassment, and that a number of witnesses testified that (1) Representative Hastings hugs many people frequently; (2) when hugging others (including Complainant), Representative Hastings did not place his hands or body in such a fashion that indicated the hug was sexual or intimate in nature; and (3) given Representative Hastings' work with Complainant often occurred in Europe, such contact was within the customary forms of greeting for the relevant locale. Nevertheless, hugging is not the most professional way to greet coworkers, and different individuals have different comf01i levels for touching others.

"Similarly, Representative Hastings admitted to making two comments in the presence of Complainant: one about not being able to sleep after sex, and another about female Members of Congress wearing the same underwear all day. It is true that Complainant attempted to make more of these comments than appears to be supported by the evidence, and that on their own, they do not constitute sexual harassment. Nevertheless, the Committee finds it concerning that in the year 2014 it has to remind a Member that such comments show poor judgment."

The case file is here.