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Rep Gabbard Pushes Bill to Prevent Sexual Harassment in Congress

November 24, 2017, 8:15 AM HST
* Updated November 24, 8:29 AM
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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Courtesy photo.

Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai‘i-02) called on Congress to pass the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act (H.R.4396) on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017.

The act is a bipartisan, comprehensive bill she co-sponsored to prevent sexual harassment in Congress and provide a fair, transparent path to justice for victims.

Recent reports indicate U.S. taxpayers have paid more than $17 million to victims in 268 Congressional settlements—including sexual harassment, discrimination and other cases—over the last two decades.

This legislation ensures that the names of offending members of Congress are released, and that they are held personally financially responsible for their behavior. The bill would prohibit non-disclosure agreements as a condition of initiating a complaint, and in cases where settlements are made, require the name of the employing office and the amount of the award or settlement to be published on the Office of Compliance’s (OOC) public website.

The legislation would also require mandatory training for all Members and staff, implement climate surveys providing interns and fellows the same protections as full-time staff, and end forced mediation and counseling, as well as the absurd and arbitrary wait times victims are currently forced to endure.

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A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “For too long, victims of sexual assault and harassment have been shamed and bullied into silence, perpetuating an inexcusable culture that has no place in our country. No one, whether it be a Capitol Hill staffer, Hollywood actor, schoolteacher, or soldier, or any other profession, should have to choose between their job and their personal safety, security and privacy. Congress must take action now to address this pervasive problem. It is outrageous that hard-working American taxpayers have paid the bill for offending lawmakers’ harassment settlements totaling millions of dollars, while keeping the names of these predators secret. This is wrong and must be corrected immediately. No more excuses. Members of Congress who harass their staffers must be held personally and financially responsible for their actions, and the public should be informed of their behavior.”

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