WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders met on Wednesday with former staff members who conveyed their dismay over the mistreatment of women during his 2016 campaign, in an effort to calm the unrest over sexism that is overshadowing his possible 2020 bid.
Mr. Sanders met with roughly two dozen former workers for about an hour in a conference room at a hotel near the Capitol. The meeting was convened in response to a recent letter sent by more than two dozen people who worked on Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign, asking to meet with the senator and his leadership team to discuss issues of harassment.
The senator did not make himself available for comment afterward, and some attendees said they preferred to keep the discussions private. One woman said she found the meeting exhausting but declined to elaborate. Some said their phones were collected before the sessions.
Jenny Yang, a human resources consultant hired by the Sanders team as a facilitator for the meeting, said in a phone interview that “people were there to hear and listen to each other.’’
She added that they were looking at the meeting as a “first step in a longer process to understanding the kinds of systems that can be put in place to address some of the challenges that we heard about.”
Among those close to Mr. Sanders who attended were Jeff Weaver, his 2016 campaign manager, and Ari Rabin-Havt, Mr. Sanders’s deputy chief of staff. There were also some people from his campaign arm, including Arianna Jones, a communications aide. Mr. Sanders’s wife, Jane Sanders, made a brief appearance.
Mr. Sanders skipped an important Senate vote on Russia sanctions to attend the meeting around noontime. He was the only senator not to appear as Republicans blocked a Democratic resolution to prevent the Trump administration from easing sanctions on a Russian oligarch. The measure, which required 60 votes to proceed, was defeated, 57 to 42, and his vote would not have affected the outcome.
There were some signs of trouble even before the meeting began. Some attendees were upset that the draft of the agenda did not directly address specific allegations of mistreatment of women, or say which top Sanders aides would attend. Several women said the travel logistics were poorly handled, with some saying they were not invited until 48 hours before the daylong meeting was scheduled to begin.
Still, the meeting was the most concrete attempt yet by Mr. Sanders and his advisers to calm unease among former workers and supporters after allegations emerged about mistreatment of women during his 2016 campaign. Reports in the past two weeks by The New York Times and Politico described accounts of harassment and discrimination of former staffers.
Mr. Sanders has twice apologized publicly for the incidents — but only in response to media questions following detailed articles — and has promised to do better if he runs again. He is still weighing a 2020 bid, after finishing second to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race in 2016.
People close to Mr. Sanders have said three of his top advisers from 2016, including his campaign manager, either will not return or will serve in different roles in a future campaign.
A draft agenda included a discussion with 2016 campaign management and facilitators from Working IDEAL, a company that advises on workplace inclusion and diversity. One of the facilitators is Jenny Yang, a former chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Some of the women who have spoken out to reporters about pay disparities, harassment and other instances of discrimination said they were not a part of the planning process for the meeting and were not aware it was happening. Last Friday, concerned that there would be no meeting, some of those women told the Sanders office that they felt it would be unfair to be excluded should a meeting occur, according to emails reviewed by The Times.
On Monday, Mr. Sanders’s office told them it would be arranging travel for them to arrive in Washington by Wednesday. But the women said the office did not send them formal invitations or any details about what would be discussed.
Some of them scrambled to rearrange their schedules, but several women said they did not hear back from Mr. Sanders’s office after being asked for travel details. One of the women was Sarah Slamen, who was the state coordinator in Louisiana in 2016 and who told The Times that she quit Our Revolution, Mr. Sanders’s progressive organization, because of gender discrimination.
Ms. Slamen said she was eventually given a midnight flight back to Texas on Wednesday after the meeting. She declined, she said, because she is six and a half months pregnant. Though she said she would not attend and did not book a flight, she later received a confirmation email for a hotel in Washington.
She said the logistical mix-ups were reminiscent of a 2016 campaign that she and some other women said was chaotic and disorganized.
“That they botched this process is emblematic of their inability to run a meeting,” Ms. Slamen said.