WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to protect victims, strengthen transparency,
and hold perpetrators accountable, Congress today passed a bill to overhaul the
way the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives handle sexual
harassment and sexual misconduct claims.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who strongly supported
reforming the system and strengthening the law to hold members of Congress to
higher standards, says the legislation is long overdue.
Both chambers voted unanimously to update the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act to streamline sexual
harassment and abuse claims. Under the new legislation, lawmakers would
be unable to use taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims. It would also improve the process for resolving
complaints, eliminating the onerous requirements of waiting periods and
mediation between victims and individuals accused of harassment.
“We need to eliminate sexual harassment in all
workplaces and Congress must lead by example and be accountable. This new
measure will increase protections for staff, reform the process used to report
harassment and discrimination, and make any settlement process transparent so
Americans are fully informed,” said Reed. “Congress must work together to
prevent discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and ensure the
system is fair and workers feel empowered to report misconduct.”
In addition to requiring lawmakers accused of
harassment to pay for their own settlements, the bill would streamline the
process by getting rid of the former mandatory 30-day counseling period, 30-day
mediation period, and 30-day “cooling off” period for victims of sexual
harassment under the Congressional Accountability Act.
Now that the legislation has passed in both
chambers, it will be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.