Legislation aims to fix broken dispute resolution process
- By FederalSoup Staff
- May 24, 2018
New legislation would change the way harassment claims are handled in Congress.
The bill reforms the dispute resolution process, protects workers, increases transparency and holds members of Congress more accountable.
It would eliminate the required 30-day “counseling” period as well as the required 30-day mediation phase, and the 30-day “cooling off” period. The bill would also allow a victim to immediately pursue an administrative hearing or file a civil action, and hold members of Congress personally liable by requiring them to reimburse the Treasury for awards and settlements stemming from acts of harassment they personally commit, including members who leave office.
“For too long victims of sexual harassment in the Senate have been forced into a process that is stacked against them – today is a major step towards rectifying this wrong,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), said. “Our bipartisan legislation – which passed with unanimous support in the Senate - will help bring accountability and transparency to a broken process, ensure victims can immediately seek justice, and hold members of Congress accountable,” she added.
The bill would also:
- Provide employees with access to a dedicated advocate who will provide consultation and assistance regarding proceedings before the Office of Compliance;
- Require public reporting of awards and settlements, including identifying if a member of Congress was liable;
-Require awards or settlements to be automatically referred to the Committee on Ethics for claims against members of Congress and senior staff.
- Extend protections under the Congressional Accountability Act to unpaid staff;
- Provide opportunities for employees to work remotely or request paid leave without fear of retribution; and
- Require a survey of staff each Congress to examine the workplace culture on Capitol Hill.
“Hardworking taxpayers should not foot the bill for a member’s misconduct, and victims should not have to navigate a system that stands in the way of accountability," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ranking Member and Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, said.
He added, "Today, 40 senators joined Sen. Klobuchar and me as co-sponsors of a bill the Senate passed unanimously to give more rights to victims and personal responsibility to members of Congress."