Legislation would reform the broken dispute resolution process, protect workers, and hold Members of Congress accountable
WASHINGTON, DC – 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 bipartisan legislation to reform the process to pursue claims of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination experienced on Capitol Hill. The legislation would reform the dispute resolution process, protect workers, increase transparency and hold Members of Congress accountable.
“Workplace harassment is a widespread problem that affects too many men and women in too many places, professions, and industries. Congress isn’t immune to it – for too long victims of workplace harassment in the Senate have been forced into a process that is stacked against them. That’s why for months we have been working with a bipartisan group of senators to change the process,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation will help bring accountability and transparency to a broken process, ensure victims can immediately seek justice, and hold Members of Congress accountable.”
“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.
A full summary and text of the legislation are attached.
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