Leaders in the Senate announced in May that a tentative deal has been reached on legislation regarding sexual harassment. The legislation is bipartisan and if it passes, will hold members of Congress accountable for claims made about harassment.
The bill was introduced to the Senate by Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota. A vote was then held in the Senate a couple of days later.
The Senate voted to pass the legislation, which will put an end to a 90-day waiting period and instead allow accusers to ask for a hearing about their claim immediately. Now members of Congress must repay the government for any settlements reached with accusers.
The legislation was passed via voice vote, meaning that not a single senator voted against it. In addition to covering issues of sexual harassment, there are other workplace discrimination issues handled by the legislation.
“Workplace discrimination, specifically sexual harassment, is a very serious issue,” Chattanooga employment attorney Jon Street, of the Employment & Consumer Law Group, said. “The rights of all employees are protected by various employment laws at the state and federal levels.”
The bill created in the Senate will also require the public reporting of settlements. As part of the reporting process, if a member of Congress is held liable, it must be noted in the report. The new law protects unpaid members of the Congressional staff, including government agency employees, fellows, and interns under the Congressional Accountability Act.
Comparable legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in February by a voice vote. Before any bill can hit the desk of the President it must be voted on by both chambers. This means that either the House or the Senate must vote on each other’s bill or the two chambers need to write and pass a compromise bill using a conference committee.
Some experts feel that the bill introduced and passed in the Senate is weaker than the one created and passed by the House, which could lead to the House voting it down if the Senate does not vote on the bill created by the House.