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house Bill H.R. 4924

Sexual Harassment in Congress: Reforming the Claims Process & Making Members Personally Repay Settlements

Argument in favor

This long overdue, bipartisan bill makes clear that Congress has no tolerance for workplace sexual harassment or discrimination while protecting victims. It also ensures that lawmakers can’t use taxpayer funds to repay settlements stemming from their misconduct.

Argument opposed

The existing process Congress uses to settle sexual harassment and workplace discrimination claims and its mandatory cooling of and mediation periods should be maintained. Lawmakers shouldn’t be personally responsible for paying settlements against them.

What is House Bill H.R. 4924?

This bill would reform the process used to handle claims of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination in Congress. It’d eliminate the mandatory counseling and mediation periods of the current process, require lawmakers to personally repay settlements stemming from their actions, and ensure employees are educated about their workplace rights.

Process Reforms

Several elements of the current sexual harassment and workplace discrimination claim process would be eliminated, including the mandatory 30-day “counseling” period, the mandatory 30-day mediation phase, and the 30-day “cooling off” period.

The new process would allow a victim to immediately pursue as the initial stage mediation, either with an administrative hearing through the Office of Compliance (OOC) or a civil action in federal district court. The employee would still have the option to engage in mediation, but wouldn’t be required to. (The existing Office of Congressional Workplace Rights would be renamed as the OOC).

Employee Protections

Employees would have immediate access to a dedicated advocate who will provide consultation and assistance throughout proceedings through the OOC. They would also be permitted to request remote work and paid leave without fear of retribution. Notification of employee rights would be required to be posted by all legislative branch employing offices.

Accountability

Members of the House and Senate would be held personally accountable for repaying awards and settlements stemming from acts of harassment or misconduct they personally commit within 90 days. Members who leave office would still be responsible for repayment, including through the garnishment of non-government wages and retirement annuities to ensure full repayment.

Public reports of OOC awards and settlements that include identification of whether a member of Congress has properly reimbursed the U.S. Treasury would be required every six months. Awards and settlements would be automatically referred to the Ethics Committee when there is a claim against a member or senior staff. The Ethics Committee would have to review settlements of harassment claims against a member within 90 days.

Additionally, a survey of staff each Congress would be required to examine the workplace culture on Capitol Hill.

Impact

Victims; the public; members of Congress; the OOC; and Congress.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 4924

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS) introduced this bill to provide transparency, accountability, and stronger protections to congressional employees while ensuring lawmakers don’t use taxpayer funds to repay harassment settlements:

“Over the past three months, the Committee on House Administration undertook a comprehensive  review of the training, policies, and mechanisms to guard against sexual harassment in the congressional workplace. Since day one, I have said that there is no place for sexual harassment or any type of harassment, and that one case is once case too many -- period. I believe the measures passed by the House today provide the needed reforms to greatly improve our workplace.”

This legislation has the support of 38 bipartisan cosponsors, including 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats. It passed the House on a unanimous voice vote.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: HaizhanZheng / iStock)

AKA

Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act

Official Title

To amend the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to reform the procedures provided under such Act for the initiation, investigation, and resolution of claims alleging that employing offices of the legislative branch have violated the rights and protections provided to their employees under such Act, including protections against sexual harassment, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house Passed February 6th, 2018
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      Committee on Administration
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
      Committee on Ways and Means
    IntroducedFebruary 5th, 2018

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    It's time for Congress to favor the rights of sexual harassment victims over those of their abusers, and to protect accusers throughout the process to ensure that justice is served.
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