New Bipartisan Bill Would Fight Sexual Harassment At The Workplace

Photographed by Sage McAvoy.
The aftermath of #MeToo movement has meant we're finally seeing our representatives take the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace seriously. In that spirit, a group of lawmakers will be introducing a new bipartisan, bicameral legislation on Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Lois Frankel, one of the co-sponsors, told Refinery29 in a statement that the EMPOWER Act's purpose is to address the lack of accountability and transparency that often permeate sexual harassment cases. She said: "The Me Too movement has exposed the pervasive issue of sexual harassment that cuts across all industries depriving workers of dignified work environments and the ability to support their families."
She added: "By lifting the veil of secrecy and increasing transparency and accountability, the EMPOWER Act will create more respectful and equitable workplaces."
The EMPOWER Act — an acronym for the "Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace Harassment through Education and Reporting Act" — is also co-sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe, Jerry Nadler, Barbara Comstock, and Lisa Blunt Rochester in the House and Sens. Kamala Harris and Lisa Murkowski in the upper chamber.
The legislation focuses on five major areas: banning companies from having non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements in their contracts, requiring public companies to disclose all their settlements in the annual filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), creating a a confidential tip-line to supplement the current complaint system at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), revising the tax code so taxpayer money is not used to fund harassment settlements and survivors aren't penalized, and mandating companies have sexual harassment prevention training programs in place.
At least 21 advocacy organizations have thrown their support behind the bill, including the
National Domestic Workers Alliance, Human Rights Campaign, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, NAACP, and the National Women’s Law Center.
While it's important that lawmakers are trying to change the system for all Americans, it's also true that it's been difficult to deal for them with the issue of sexual harassment in their own house. A legislation to reform the archaic way in which Congress handles sexual harassment cases passed the House with bipartisan support in February. The Senate passed its own modified version in May, but since then there's been no progress in coming up with a final bill.

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