Congress Moves Forward on Previously Stalled Legislation to Reform Sexual Harassment in Legislative Workforce

December 13, 2018 12:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have reached agreement on the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act (S. 3749), which the Senate passed by unanimous consent today.

Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following response:

“After a year where the country was newly awakened to the epidemic of workplace harassment and members of Congress were censured and resigned over allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, it would be unconscionable for our elected representatives not to pass the only pending bill that would address harassment in the legislative workforce.

“This legislation represents a significant step forward. It makes the dispute resolution process simpler and fairer and begins to level a playing field that was too often weighted in favor of members of Congress who hold institutional power. Other reforms in the bill, such as requiring regular anonymous climate surveys, expanding coverage, and providing staff with meaningful support, are all critical if Capitol Hill is truly going to be safe for workers.

“But there is still work to be done. The bill requires members of Congress to reimburse taxpayers for awards and settlements related to harassment and retaliation but not for other forms of discriminatory conduct. And it is left to a Senate ethics committee to decide whether senators will reimburse the Treasury for any harassment settlements. These are important transparency and accountability measures the next Congress should fix.

“Members of Congress owe it to the legislative workforce to ensure that the halls of power are free from sexual violence, harassment, and discrimination. We look forward to working with both parties and in both chambers to make that promise a reality not only in Congress, but in every workplace across the country. ”

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