Earlier in February, Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar was accused of mistreating her staff in reports published by HuffPost and BuzzFeed News. The allegations against the Democratic senator, which emerged shortly before she announced that she was running for president in 2020, were alarming; she was accused of throwing papers and hurling objects — including a binder — at staffers, and of regularly berating employees to the degree that many of them were left crying. It was also reported that Senator Harry Reid even once admonished Klobuchar for her behavior toward staff.
In turn, Klobuchar told reporters, “Yes, I can be tough. And yes, I can push people … I have high expectations for the people that work for me. But I have high expectations for this country.”
However, the allegations against Klobuchar paint a picture of a far more troublesome work environment than simply one of “high expectations” and being tough. Moreover, new accusations against her continue to emerge. Here’s a running list of all allegations so far.
The disturbing allegations of staff maltreatment against Klobuchar began to surface in early February.
In a pair of stories, HuffPost uncovered the accusations of staff mistreatment against Klobuchar. Before she announced her then-rumored 2020 campaign, HuffPost reported that at least three people withdrew from consideration to lead her presidential bid because of persistent rumors that she mistreated her staff.
Former staffers said the senator was “habitually demeaning and prone to busts of cruelty” towards her employees, HuffPost reported. Additionally, it was reported that former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid spoke to Klobuchar privately in 2015, urging her to change her behavior towards her staff. HuffPost also reports that complaints about Klobuchar behavior date back at least to 2006 during her time as the Hennepin County attorney in Minneapolis.
Additional accusations of Klobuchar’s alleged behavior — including leading a workplace of fear and anger, which left employees in tears — started popping up after.
Four former staffers told BuzzFeed News that the senator was prone to bouts of “explosive rage” and subjected them to regular humiliation. In one instance, a staffer says they were hit by a flying binder that the senator threw (though the staffer said the senator did not intend to hit anyone with it). The staffers spoke of crying “all the time,” and said that Klobuchar reportedly berated them over minor grammatical errors and threatened to fire them (even on email threads that included many of their colleagues).
Per BuzzFeed News:
Some former aides, however, say that Klobuchar’s behavior as a leader didn’t just affect her employees but limited their ability to conduct Senate work, creating a chaotic environment where staff were forced to devote as much time to managing their boss’s unpredictable anger as they did to governing.
From the get-go, the senator and her campaign have denied the allegations against her, claiming that she is merely “tough” but that she “loves her staff.”
Speaking with BuzzFeed News in early February, a spokesperson for her campaign says, “Senator Klobuchar loves her staff — they are the reason she has gotten to where she is today. She has many staff who have been with her for years … and many who have gone on to do amazing things.” Several of her former staffers spoke out in support of Klobuchar, including one who said they found her to be “incredibly fair and extremely effective.” And the day of her presidential announcement, Klobuchar told reporters that she has high expectations of her staff and of the country:
Klobuchar also recently echoed that sentiment at a recent CNN forum: “Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes. Have I pushed people too hard? Yes. But I have kept expectations for myself that are very high. I’ve asked my staff to meet those same expectations.”
A new report by the New York Times alleges Klobuchar berated employees over utensils, threw objects, and gave her staffers demeaning tasks.
On Friday, the New York Times published a report that included a number of troubling allegations: Klobuchar reportedly once berated staff for not bringing a fork for her salad on a flight, then ate the salad with a comb and subsequently told the staffer to clean the comb afterward; she and top aides would “complicate future job opportunities” for staff members who sought to leave; and she allegedly had lower-level employees complete demeaning tasks, like doing her dishes or cleaning, among others.
She also reportedly subjected her staff to an “unusual” paid parental leave policy that in sometimes required staffers to pay back what they earned.
Klobuchar’s office reportedly had a paid parental leave policy that was considered “unusual.” Essentially, once a staff member returned from leave, they were required to stay in their positions for up to three weeks longer than the amount of leave they took. The Times reports that if the staffers left before that time, they would have to pay back money earned during their paid parental leave, per a policy in the employee handbook.
Klobuchar’s spokeswoman Elana Ross said that the policy would be revised, and that the office has one of the “strongest” leave policies in the Senate. “We’ve never made staff pay back any of their leave and will be changing that language in the handbook,” she said.