Legislation reforms the broken dispute resolution process, protects workers, and holds Members of Congress accountable
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), the Ranking Member and Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, announced that their bipartisan legislation to reform the process to pursue claims of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination experienced on Capitol Hill is headed to the President’s desk. The final text of the legislation was agreed upon yesterday by leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives and passed both chambers today with strong bipartisan support. The legislation would reform the dispute resolution process, protect workers, increase transparency and hold Members of Congress accountable.
“Sexual harassment goes far beyond the cases you read in the headlines—it’s not just about the rich and famous, but also the nurse, or the teacher, or the line worker at the factory. Today, Congress sent a message that workplace harassment of any kind is unacceptable,” Klobuchar said. “The time has come to stop protecting politicians and to start supporting victims. All men and women deserve a workplace free from harassment.”
“Today, the House and Senate came together to end a broken process that failed victims for far too long,” Blunt said. “This bipartisan, bicameral agreement will protect the rights of victims and ensure perpetrators are held accountable for conduct unacceptable in the Congress or any workplace. I thank Senator Klobuchar and House and Senate leadership for getting this bill through Congress and on its way to the president’s desk.”
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:
- Hold Members of Congress personally liable by pay for awards and settlements stemming from acts of harassment and related retaliation they personally commit, including Members who leave office.
- Eliminate the required 30-day “counseling” period, the required 30-day mediation phase, and the 30-day “cooling off” period.
- 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.