January 19, 2018
A bipartisan group of House members has introduced legislation to address sexual harassment in Congress that goes well beyond requiring training for members and staffers and could set the stage for a similar private-sector measure. The “Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act” would do away with mandatory counseling, mediation, and “cooling off” periods in Congress before an alleged victim can file a claim, and would make confidentiality optional in each of those processes. The bill would also make members of Congress personally financially responsible for paying any settlements or awards, and require Congress to publish data on sexual harassment and other employment law claims and settlements. Last month, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act,” which would void private sector mandatory pre-dispute arbitration provisions for any Title VII gender discrimination claims, including those regarding compensation, hiring and terminations, promotions, and pregnancy claims, and enable employees covered by union contracts to skip arbitration immediately and take any employment claim to court. No action has yet been scheduled on that measure.