Rep. Maloney, Members of Congress, Advocate Groups Announce New Bills to Combat Workplace Sexual Harassment
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) today, with Reps. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Annie Kuster (NH-2), and Tom Suozzi (NY-3) joined with Feminist Majority, ERA Coalition, and the National Organization for Women (NOW) to announce two new pieces of legislation to combat sexual harassment in the workplace; the Ending Secrecy About Workplace Sexual Harassment Act and the No Tax Deductions for Sexual Harasser Buyouts Act.
The two bills are designed to end the corporate culture of secrecy surrounding sexual harassment settlements and to no longer allow companies to treat Bill O’Reilly-like severances as an ordinary cost of doing business. As a result, companies will have stronger incentives to prevent sexual discrimination, including verbal and physical sexual harassment, from happening in the first place.
“We are in a moment of reckoning. What was once confined to the whisper networks of warnings between women has been brought into the light and we owe it to all the women coming forward with their #MeToo stories, and those still suffering in silence, to act and make things better,” said Rep. Maloney. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing payouts to sexual harassers and companies shouldn’t be able to use these buyouts as a way to lower their taxes. Instead of just sweeping sexual misconduct under the rug, companies need to be held accountable for all allegations – including those that are settled out of court. With total secrecy, companies have absolutely no incentive to focus on preventing sexual misconduct if they know they will never be held accountable. But, with these two bills, we flip the incentive structure from one of cover up to one of prevention. We must seize this movement to inspire lasting change that keeps everyone safe from sexual harassment - in the workplace, at universities, in Congress – and everywhere in between. With these bills, we can help do that.”
“The Ending Secrecy About Workplace Sexual Harassment Act is a necessary step towards ending sexual harassment and achieving equality in any workplace. I thank my friend and colleague, Rep. Maloney, for leading the way,” said Rep. Khanna. “This legislation will ensure that workplaces are held to a standard of accountability and transparency in dealing with claims of harassment, assault, and gender discrimination.”
“Every worker deserves a respectful workplace,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “For too long, attempting to seek justice by coming forward about sexual harassment in the workplace has been outweighed by the repercussions employees faced and the threat to their careers. That’s changing with the watershed moment taking place in our nation and the collective voice of countless women and men in the #MeToo movement. I’m proud to join my colleagues in pursuing legislative solutions to support employees throughout the country and help foster safe and healthy workplaces for everyone.”
“Whenever trying to reform, we must remember the adage, ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ We need to shine a light on the existing problem of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace,” said Rep. Suozzi. “By requiring companies to detail sexual harassment data, we can clearly define the extent of this pervasive problem and begin to change this toxic culture of behavior. I’m committed to working with Rep. Maloney and others on this very important issue.”
“Sexual harassment survives in the back rooms and dark places of the American workplace, behind locked doors and a veil of silence and fear. This legislation pulls back the curtain and turns on the lights so America knows what’s happening,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8). As the last several months of brave revelation have shown, sexual harassers cannot continue their discrimination and dirty business in the light of day. Transparency and clarity will be the main disinfectant for our economy. I’m proud to be cosponsoring Congresswoman Maloney’s excellent bill.”
“I want to thank Congresswoman Maloney for introducing legislation to address workplace sexual harassment,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Feminist leaders are building on the strength and bravery of survivors, and this is the start of us moving forward with real solution. In conversations about institutions covering up sexual harassment and assault, we cannot leave out colleges and universities, where too many young women are subjected to inexcusable violence that threatens their access to equal education, and thus, their future economic opportunities.”
“It is time for corporations to be publicly held accountable for providing a safe environment for their employees. Congresswoman Maloney’s Ending Secrecy About Workplace Sexual Harassment Act will hold companies responsible for putting an end to the culture of sexual harassment that is far too prevalent in the workplace,” said Bettina Hager, COO and DC Director of the ERA Coalition. The ERA Coalition’s mission to pass and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would strengthen the constitutional basis for legislation that will help create more effective legal recourse for gender-based violence. We thank Congresswoman Maloney for her leadership on both of these issues.”
"The National Organization for Women applauds Representative Maloney’s continued efforts to combat sexual violence,” said Toni Van Pelt, President of the National Organization for Women. Too often women in the workplace are faced with the heartbreaking choice between their safety and their careers. Women in every sector should exist safely in their place of employment without fear of sexual harassment or assault. Enough is Enough."
The Ending Secrecy About Workplace Sexual Harassment Act requires companies to include in their annual EEO-1 form to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the number of settlements with employees regarding claims of discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment and sexual assault. Additional provisions prohibit retaliation against any employee who report any violation of the requirement; require an annual report to Congress from EEOC on the sexual harassment data it has collected both directly from individuals and through the expanded EEO-1, and the enforcement actions EEOC has taken in response to the complaints received; and the commission of a Government Accountability Office study with recommendations on improving transparency about sexual harassment in the workplace. Original co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Elijah Cummings (MD-7), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Annie Kuster (NH-2), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), David Scott (GA-13), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), and Tom Suozzi (NY-3).
The No Tax Deductions for Sexual Harasser Buyouts Act creates a tax deductibility exemption for buyouts paid by companies to sexual harassers.