Rep. Brenda Lawrence’s chief of staff resigns
Washington — U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence announced Thursday that she has accepted the resignation of her chief of staff following allegations that he sexually harassed several former office staffers.
“I will move forward with an investigation focused on the current and future climate of our workplace environment,” Lawrence said in a statement.
“No employee should ever be made to feel intimidated, harassed or otherwise discriminated against in their place of work. Every employee should feel free to present their concerns with the expectation that those concerns will be quickly and directly addressed and resolved.”
Last week, Lawrence placed chief of staff Dwayne Duron Marshall on administrative leave while she investigated allegations that he sexually harassed multiple former staff members.
Lawrence, a Southfield Democrat, had said that the first she’d heard of any allegations against Marshall were in the report published last week by POLITICO.
She said she would have fired anyone engaged in sexually harassing behavior in her office had she been notified, but Lawrence claimed that “none of the concerns brought to my attention involved allegations of sexual harassment.”
A spokeswoman for Lawrence said that Marshall notified Lawrence of his resignation earlier this week.
Lawrence said Thursday that she has initiated an “assessment” of the workplace environments of both her offices in Washington and in Southfield.
“Validating an environment of zero tolerance for harassment of any kind is a high priority of mine. Moreover, creating an environment of open communication and awareness of rights and resources are critical components of a secure workplace,” she said.
“It is my goal to establish a clearly defined communication process as it relates to employee concerns. Through this workplace assessment, I intend to establish an office environment that would be a model for offices on Capitol Hill.”
Three former female aides told POLITICO they personally brought complaints to Lawrence about Marshall inappropriately touching them or commenting on their appearances.
The anonymous aides told POLITICO that they did not use the words “sexual harassment” in their complaints to Lawrence, but they did raise concerns about Marshall’s alleged actions.
The aides reported that Lawrence was well aware of Marshall’s conduct in the office, and some of them said they told Lawrence that Marshall’s behavior was the reason they were quitting.
A source with knowledge of Marshall’s behavior told The Detroit News last week that Lawrence has had a difficult time retaining employees because of Marshall. The source wished to remain unnamed for fear of retaliation.
Lawrence last month introduced legislation that would require congressional staffers to take an online course on sexual harassment. The former Southfield mayor is a former harassment complaint investigator for the federal government.