Congress Takes Steps to Lead By Example, Passing Strong, Bipartisan Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Reform for the Legislative Branch Workforce

Washington, DC

December 13, 2018

Today, with only a few days left in the 115th Congress, the House and Senate passed unanimously the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act. Equal Pay Today, a project of Equal Rights Advocates, along with our partners the American Civil Liberties Union, National Women’s Law Center, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Public Citizen and in the broader women’s rights and accountability communities, has been working for more than a year with our allies on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate to reform how the Legislative Branch stops, prevents, and remedies workplace harassment and other forms of discrimination for it’s workforce in Washington, DC and across the nation.

Joi Chaney, Director of Equal Pay Today, a project of Equal Rights Advocates and Senior Policy Counsel of Equal Rights Advocates, released the following statement.

“In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the nation was reminded that the Congressional workforce, including House and Senate offices, was not exempt from the challenges of sexual harassment in the workplace. We were also reminded that the Congressional workforce — often women and people of color — experience other forms of harassment and discrimination as well.”

“What came as a surprise was that Congress’s process for handling these claims was so byzantine and unfair to claimants, favoring instead powerful Members over vulnerable staff. Worse, we learned that the American taxpayer was footing the bill for awards and settlements to victims of harassment conducted by Members of Congress themselves. This was no example for the nation.”

“While it took longer than it should have for Congress to clean-up it’s act, we are pleased to see passage of strong, bipartisan reform. The bill removes unnecessary hurdles to filing a claim; expands who is protected, including unpaid interns; ensures staff can receive legal assistance; improves transparency on claims filed; and strengthens accountability for members of Congress.”

“This bill isn’t perfect. While members will now have to reimburse taxpayers for payments made on their behalf for harassment, we must still work to ensure reimbursement for payments made for discrimination. We must also work to ensure the bill is implemented as intended. That said, it is a start, a good one for victims of harassment and discrimination, and a vast improvement over the status quo.”

“As we move forward, we look forward to working with our partners on and off the Hill to ensure the Legislative workforce is protected and that Congressional workplace reflects the greatness of the nation it serves and is a positive example.”