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Re: Policy Brief No. 38

Policy Summary: In February 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced and passed H.R. 4924 which is known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act. That bill seeks to “revise administration and judicial dispute resolution procedures…for claims by employees alleging that employing offices have violated their…rights and protections, including protections against sexual harassment” by Members of Congress. On May 24, 2018, the U.S. Senate introduced and passed by voice vote S.2952 which is a companion bill to H.R. 4924. The Senate bill seeks to revise the same administrative and judicial dispute resolution procedures for sexual harassment claims by the legislative workforce as they may arise against a Member of Congress. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: Due to the high – profile number of sexual harassment incidents against Members of Congress the last year, the two bills in the House and the Senate was seen as long overdue. Despite the good intentions to address these types of incidents in Congress, many groups still have concerns whether the proposed reforms will lead to substantial change. In advance of the floor vote in the Senate, five non – profit groups jointly authored a letter detailing their perceived shortcomings of the bill. The highlight of the letter dealt with the personal reimbursement obligation by a Member of Congress. The House bill passed in February authorized a Member of Congress to personally reimburse the U.S. Treasury if any settlement monies are paid as a result of an act of harassment or retaliation by the Congressperson. However, the non – profit groups found that the Senate bill found ways to limit and undermine the reimbursement obligation. Additionally, the Senate bill added other requirements to future investigations which were seen as uneccessary – barring legal advice from an attorney after a claim against a Member of Congress is filed, requiring Congressional committees to review sexual harassment claims instead of unbiased independent investigators and allowing Members of Congress who have been accused to not be identified in the final report. The Senate bill does not seem to make the process of pursuing a sexual harassment claim against a Member of Congress as transparent and as streamlined as it could be. Hopefully, the concerns in the Senate bill can be reconciled with the stronger House bill before it is finalized and sent to the White House for the President’s signature. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Take Action:

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – group’s comment on Senate bill (S.2952).

National Women’s Law Center – non – profit group’s infopage on sexual harassment in the workplace and comments on the Senate bill.

National Organization of Women (NOW) – non – profit group advocating women’s rights and their comment on the Senate bill.

 

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

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