In the wake of multiple sexual misconduct accusations against high profile celebrities and politician, some have lost their jobs or resigned.
While men in the private sector are stepping down or being let go amidst accusations, why aren’t elected officials being ousted? The answer lies in due process meant to protect the voters and the democratic process, said Leslie Jacobs, a constitutional law expert and Professor at the University of Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law.
In the private sector, depending on employment status a worker can be fired fairly easily. If accusations are made, one would simply need to look at an employee’s contract or if they’re at-will look to company policy before firing them. Higher ranking officials in the corporate world may need to be released after a decision is made by a board of directors. All of these decisions can be made fairly quickly.
However, firing an elected member of government isn’t so easy. The process for removal will depend on the office they hold.
In California, a member of the state legislature may be removed from office by suspension, expulsion, or public recall. For suspension or expulsion, the state legislature must vote the member out by a supermajority or two-thirds. There are also serious instances where members of the public may bring a recall of the member and also vote them out of office early.
Congressional members may have their terms ended early by a two-thirds vote. There is no suspension process nor a public recall.
Impeachment is the process for removing a person from the office of the President. For that, the U.S. House of Representatives must begin impeachment proceedings against the President and then the case would be tried in the U.S. Senate.
Another option which often used before any of these embarrassing processes or removal begin is that the elected official resign, Jacobs said.
As courageous victims of sexual assaults continue to come forward and name powerful members of American society, Jacobs says it’s likely more high profile people will lose their jobs or resign.