Civil Rights Groups Voice Concern with Senate Bill on Sexual Harassment and Workplace Discrimination on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union voiced serious concerns about a Senate bill passed today that would reform the way sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination are addressed in congressional offices and across the legislative workforce.
The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act (S. 2952) includes many necessary improvements but also contained several troubling provisions that, unlike the version introduced in the House, would leave unaddressed the unequal power dynamics, reduce transparency and accountability, and further disenfranchise staffers.
Joined by the National Women’s Law Center, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Equal Pay Today, and Public Citizen, the ACLU submitted a letter to Senate leadership yesterday outlining their concerns.
Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel with the ACLU, said:
“We’re glad that the Senate finally decided to take action on harassment and other forms of workplace discrimination, but the bill that passed today falls far short.
“We asked the Senate for a commitment to transparency, but this bill allows members of Congress to hide payments and awards they have made in connection with certain discrimination claims. Members of Congress should be held accountable for their discriminatory conduct, but instead this bill appears to provide numerous opportunities to evade responsibility, while also failing to offer Senate professional staff the same kind of legal counsel and support that members of Congress receive.
“The Senate has set up a number of false choices — but the bill introduced by the House of Representatives is proof that true change is possible. We urge the Senate to go to conference with the House of Representatives and work to pass a bill that will actually serve the long-neglected needs of the legislative workforce. Congress can and should change the culture on Capitol Hill and end harassment and discrimination in the legislative workforce.”
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The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.