This bill — known as the ME TOO Congress Act — would seek to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in Congress by overhauling the complaint system, improving training, and making the process more transparent. It would end required mediation and mandatory nondisclosure agreements, require annual sexual harassment training by members and employees, and require members to settle harassment claims against them with their own money.
Counseling and mediation would no longer be required to file a complaint, and instead would be optional. If counseling and mediation is waived, the deadline for filing a complaint would be 180 days after the alleged violation, and the complaint could be made anonymously. Nondisclosure agreements would no longer be imposed as a condition of initiating a complaint, but would still be allowed for the contents of mediation or as part of a negotiated settlement. Complainants could also waive confidentiality in counseling.
Victims would have an optional Victims’ Counsel program available to them, which could provide legal advice and representation to complainants in matters related to the alleged violation. Investigative and subpoena authority would be turned over to the Office of Compliance (OOC).
An employing office would be required to allow a complainant to work remotely during proceedings if they request to do so. If their work cannot be done remotely, the office would be allowed to offer them a paid leave of absence. Employees on paid leave of absence wouldn’t count against the total number of allowed employees in a House office. Organizations with previously agreed upon collective bargaining agreements would be exempt.
Hearings would have to be completed within 180 days of a complaint being filed, and counsel representing the employing office would have the authority to negotiate the final settlement amount without the approval of any committee of Congress.
Annual sexual harassment training would be required for members and staff, which would have to be certified upon completion. It would include specific instructions on how members and senior staff should respond to incidents of sexual harassment.
The bill’s full title is the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On Congress Act.