In the U.S., Women's Equality Day on August 26 commemorates 100 years since the passing of the 19th amendment, which gave women the long-fought-for right to vote — although millions of women of color were still denied that right for decades. It’s a good time to think about what we’ve achieved in terms of progress for women and how far we still have left to go when it comes to issues such as equal pay, paid family leave, child-care affordability, and gender-based workplace harassment.
This summer, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have been steadily releasing their platforms connected to these issues and framing them in the larger context of economic opportunity, workers’ rights, and family health. But the latter issue — gender-based workplace harassment — has received the least attention, according to Vicki Shabo, a senior fellow at New America.
“Until women have the ability to be free from harassment in their workplaces and to have equitable opportunities to advance and be paid fairly, their economic participation in society and their political clout remains untapped,” Shabo tells Refinery29. “Of the issues we’ve been tracking, harassment is the least developed in general, which I think is interesting and pretty sobering in light of the #MeToo movement.”
The think tank recently put together analysis on the candidates’ positions on key issues that deal with work and family. “The whole suite of policies is so important because they start to nudge and change the culture to make sure women are treated as equal, respected, and valued,” Shabo says.
Ahead, we detail where those of the 2020 presidential candidates who have addressed gender-based workplace harassment stand on the issue. (The others have not addressed it specifically.)
Sen. Cory Booker
The New Jersey senator has not put forth a 2020 campaign platform on gender-based workplace harassment, but during his kickoff rally in April he said: "We will build a culture where men respect women, sexual assault and harassment are no longer swept under the rug, and future generations don’t have to raise their hands to say 'me too.'"
In Congress, Booker cosponsored the BE HEARD In the Workplace Act, introduced in April, which would set in place mandatory nondiscrimination policies and trainings, and strengthen workers' rights, clarifying that sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination both qualify as unlawful sex discrimination.
Bill de Blasio
De Blasio issued a "21st Century Workers' Bill of Rights" as part of his campaign platform, which would protect workers from unfair employment termination, including after reporting sexual harassment. In January, the New York City mayor launched a Gender-Based Anti-Harassment Unit within the NYC Commission on Human Rights, charged with reducing instances of retaliation against workers who report harassment.
Delaney's platform on women's rights includes support for "whistleblower protections," and he promises to ensure that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gets the necessary funding to enforce anti-discrimination laws.
In February, Harris introduced the EMPOWER Act (Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace Harassment through Education and Reporting), which would, among other measures, end the use of non-disparagement and nondisclosure agreements in employment contracts, and end the use of tax deductions to write off legal fees associated with harassment settlements. She also cosponsored BE HEARD.
The Minnesota senator cosponsored BE HEARD.
Ryan cosponsored BE HEARD.
As part of his women's rights platform, the Vermont senator has pledged to, "Protect women from harassment, discrimination, and violence in educational institutions by protecting and enforcing Title IX." In Congress, he also cosponsored BE HEARD.
As part of the Massachusetts senator's platform on economic opportunities for women of color, she aims to ban companies that seek federal contracts from using forced-arbitration and non-compete clauses that restrict workers' rights. In Congress, she also cosponsored BE HEARD.
In her women's rights platform, Williamson specifically says she supports Kamala Harris' EMPOWER Act. She also wants to "empower the Justice Department to more thoroughly prevent sexual harassment, discrimination, and rape."