POLITICS

Gillibrand Aide Resigned In Protest Over Allegedly Mishandled Sex Harassment Claims

"Your office chose to go against your public belief that women shouldn’t accept sexual harassment in any form," a former female staffer wrote to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) last summer.

A former female aide of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) resigned last summer after the young woman says Gillibrand’s office didn’t do enough to address sexual harassment claims against one of the senator’s staffers. 

Politico reported on Monday that the unidentified former staffer resigned in August 2018, after reporting that Gillibrand’s special assistant Abbas Malik repeatedly sexually harassed her on the job. Malik, who is married and a decade older than the female aide, worked as Gillibrand’s driver and later her military adviser. 

The aide told Politico that Malik repeatedly made sexual advances after Malik was told he would be promoted to the female aide’s manager. Additionally, she claimed that Malik made crude and misogynistic comments about other female colleagues such as rating the appearances of potential female hires. 

Gillibrand’s camp told Politico they took the accusations seriously and investigated them thoroughly. The unidentified staffer, however, said the team did not reach out to two former staffers who she had said could corroborate and add to her allegations of general workplace misconduct against Malik. 

“A full and thorough investigation into the evidence revealed employee misconduct that, while inappropriate, did not meet the standard for sexual harassment,” Gillibrand’s communications director Whitney Mitchell Brennan told HuffPost. “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.” 

Malik kept his job and, less than three weeks after her first report, the female aide resigned in protest of how Gillibrand’s office handled the complaint. 

“I have offered my resignation because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled,” the female staffer wrote in her resignation letter to Gillibrand on Aug. 30, 2018.  

The woman pointed to the presidential candidate’s outspoken record on sexual misconduct, including in the military and on the Hill, as her reasoning for sending the letter. Gillibrand has made women’s issues, specifically sexual assault, a center point of her political identity and presidential campaign.

“I trusted and leaned on this statement that you made: ‘You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is O.K. None of it is acceptable,’” the woman wrote. “Your office chose to go against your public belief that women shouldn’t accept sexual harassment in any form and portrayed my experience as a misinterpretation instead of what it actually was: harassment and ultimately, intimidation.”

Gillibrand’s office never responded to the letter. Her office told Politico this week that they never responded to the staffer’s letter because it “contained clear inaccuracies” and the issue had already been resolved weeks prior. 

The female staffer said that chief of staff Jess Fassler and deputy chief of staff Anne Bradley told her she has simply misinterpreted Malik’s remarks and it was too much of a “he said, she said” case to warrant his firing. 

Gillibrand responded to the report in a statement to HuffPost on Monday morning.

“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,” she wrote. “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.”

Malik was let go from Gillibrand’s camp last week, after Politico presented its own investigation of separate workplace misconduct claims against Malik.

Malik did not to HuffPost’s request for comment.

CLARIFICATION: Language in this piece has been amended to better reflect the nature of Malik’s work for Sen. Gillibrand and the allegations against him.

Head over to Politico to read the full report. 

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