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 they have reached an agreement on legislation to reform the process to pursue claims of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination experienced on Capitol Hill. The final text of the bipartisan legislation was agreed upon by leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives and would reform the dispute resolution process, protect workers, increase transparency and hold Members of Congress accountable.
“For too long, victims of sexual harassment in Congress have been forced into a process that lacks transparency and accountability, and fails them at a time when they need the most support,” Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation—which we expect to pass in the coming days—will overhaul this broken process, ensure victims can immediately seek justice, and hold Members of Congress accountable. I thank Senator Blunt and leaders in the House and Senate for all the work they have done with me to finalize this critical legislation.”
“This bipartisan, bicameral agreement sends a clear message that harassment in any form will not be tolerated by the Congress,” Blunt said. “The reforms in this agreement will, most importantly, strengthen protections for victims and hold Members of Congress personally accountable for their misconduct. I appreciate Senator Klobuchar’s partnership, and the efforts of leaders in the House and Senate, who have come together to get this done. I urge all of our colleagues to get this legislation 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.