Senate approves bill to overhaul system for reporting sexual harassment

Angelo Anderson
May 25, 2018

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), would eliminate the now required 90-day counseling and arbitration period that victims have to go through before going to court.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that would step up protections for congressional staffers facing workplace harassment, including requiring lawmakers to use their personal funds to cover the cost of settlements if they were the alleged harassers.

The letter also criticizes the bill for specifying that members will only have to repay settlements stemming from sexual harassment, and not other types of discrimination. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who launched the talks following a string of accusations against members of Congress. Senate leaders have not committed to a timeline for voting on the bill.

The House passed its own bipartisan legislation to revamp sexual harassment policies by a voice vote in February - a bill that soon stalled in the Senate. Both the Senate and House measures would make repayment mandatory.

They argued that in the small world of Capitol Hill, this could have a chilling effect on reporting by staff if they know their name and information may be shared with lawmakers whom they may interact with in their work.

In an exclusive joint interview with CNN, Klobuchar and Blunt responded to criticism from outside advocacy groups about the bill, and said they hope to have a final bill worked out and passed this summer so that the President can sign it into law.

The Senate bill also doubles of the amount of time a victim has to decide if they want to file a lawsuit. "I think the fact that we took a few months and looked at this will make for a stronger bill".

The House Ethics Committee released a statement on Thursday reiterating it does not have jurisdiction over House members once they resign. "Hopefully we can iron out some of those differences, because in the end, the balance of power has always been with the harasser and the institution". The American Civil Liberties Union, Equal Pay Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Women's Law Center, and Public Citizen are calling on the Senate to strengthen its bill.

The Senate bill also would require the ethics committees in both chambers to review settlements, which some critics fear could give lawmakers a chance to protect each other.

The new Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, which would replace the current Office of Compliance, would be required to report annually to Congress and to publish on its website all awards and settlements when members are found to be personally liable from the previous year.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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