JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Women’s Foundation is applauding Missouri Senators Roy Blunt and Sen. Claire McCaskill for their roles in working to reform sexual harassment procedures.
The bipartisan piece of legislation would change the process to pursue claims of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination that may occur on Capitol Hill.
The legislation would reform the dispute resolution process, protect workers, increase transparency, and improve accountability.
“This bipartisan agreement sends a clear message that harassment in any form will not be tolerated in the U.S. Congress,” Blunt said. “The major reforms in this agreement will, first and foremost, strengthen protections for harassment victims. The agreement will also enhance accountability and prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for a Member’s misconduct. I appreciate Sen. Klobuchar’s partnership in reaching this agreement, and look forward to continuing our work to swiftly move a bill through the Senate.”
This legislation would change the way harassment claims are handled in Congress by eliminating the required 30-day “counseling” period, the required 30-day mediation phase, and the 30-day “cooling off” period. The legislation would allow a victim to immediately pursue an administrative hearing or file a civil action. It would also hold Members of Congress personally liable by requiring them to reimburse the Treasury for awards and settlements stemming from acts of harassment they personally commit, including Members who leave office.
In addition, the legislation would:
- Provide employees with access to a dedicated advocate who will provide consultation and assistance regarding proceedings before the Office of Compliance.
- Require public reporting of awards and settlements, including identifying if a Member of Congress was personally liable.
- Require awards or settlements to be automatically referred to the Committee on Ethics for claims against Members of Congress and senior staff.
- Extend protections under the Congressional Accountability Act to unpaid staff, including interns, detailees and fellows, and other Legislative Branch Staff.
- Provide opportunities for employees to work remotely or request paid leave without fear of retribution.
- Require a survey of staff each Congress to examine the workplace culture on Capitol Hill.
- Provide additional support for state, district and regional Legislative Branch staff to ensure they have the same access to Office of Compliance resources, training opportunities, guidance and advice as Washington D.C. based legislative branch workers.
- Require the Office of Compliance to establish an electronic system for taking in claims by victims, tracking those claims throughout the process, and generating reports on various details of claims.
“This is a very positive development, and we thank Senator Blunt and Senator McCaskill for working to reform Congress’s decades-old sexual harassment procedures,” said Wendy Doyle, Women’s Foundation President & CEO. “The era of impunity is over, and the national reckoning around sexual harassment in the workplace must address the culture in the halls of Congress as well. We look forward to continuing to work with policymakers from both parties to combat sexual harassment and misconduct and ensure government – at all levels – is a safe, healthy and professional place to work.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.