The congressional investigation into allegations that a Broward County U.S. Representative sexually harassed a member of his staff was recently extended.

The House independent investigative arm, the Office of Congressional Ethics, began reviewing the case in which a former staffer alleges U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of harassment this summer.

Judicial Watch, a conservative group, filed the suit on behalf of the woman in March. The suit claims that the congressman from South Florida repeatedly made sexual advances to her when he was co-chairman of an independent U.S. Agency. At the time, she was a staffer on a commission he led.

She also said she was threatened and intimidated when she tried to report the behavior.

Intimidation is a common and unfortunate element in sexual harassment cases. Many people who work in a sexually hostile work environment feel this way and are sometimes even unwilling to object to the conduct of a co-worker or supervisor.

Hastings has reportedly denied the allegations, calling them “ludicrous.” He has also asked a court to throw out the complaint.

The Office of Congressional Ethics expects to complete the review by mid-January. The committee has said that the fact that the investigation has been extended does not indicate a judgment or whether the allegations are truthful.

The woman claimed that much of the harassment took place while the congressman was in Europe for business. She said he asked her several times to stay at her apartment or to visit his hotel room in Vienna, Austria. She said he also asked her what type of underwear she was wearing.

Source: The Miami Herald, “House Ethics Committee extends Alcee Hastings probe,” Nov. 28, 2011