Legislators Introduce Workplace Sexual Harassment Prevention Bill

A group of legislators have introduced a bill aimed at bolstering protections against workplace harassment, including sexual harassment.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Reps. Katherine Clark, Ayanna Pressley, Elissa Slotkin, and Debbie Murcarsel-Powell have introduced the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace Act, also known as the Be HEARD Act.

The bill aims to create federal protections against workplace sexual harassment and sexual orientation-based discrimination. Among other goals, the legislation aims to end mandatory arbitration and pre-employment nondisclosure agreements, require employers to report incidents of sexual harassment, expand anti-retaliation laws, and give employees more time to report harassment.

"Millions of workers are not protected under our civil rights laws. Far too many are still silenced by mandatory disclosure agreements that prevent them from discussing sexual harassment and longstanding practices like the tipped wages that keep workers in certain industries especially vulnerable," Murray said. "The Be HEARD Act will take strong new steps to address all of this and more.”

The Be HEARD Act draws from recommendations outlined by Murray late last year in a report on workplace harassment titled "'…So I Tolerated It:' How Workplaces Are Responding to Harassment and the Clear Need for Federal Action."

The Be HEARD Act will:

  • Strengthen understanding of workplace harassment and help workplaces prevent it by investing in research about the economic impact of workplace harassment and requiring regular reporting on the prevalence of such
  • Help ensure transparency by ending mandatory arbitration and pre-employment nondisclosure agreements, which keep workers from coming forward and holding perpetrators and workplaces accountable
  • Broaden and expand civil rights protections for all workers by strengthening existing civil rights laws and protecting extant antidiscrimination laws and protections, as well as making it clear that the Civil Rights Act protects against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Empower employees who come forward with reports of harassment or retaliation to make sure they get support, by allowing workers more time to report harassment, authorizing grants to support legal assistance for low-income workers, investing in more resources at the state level to help workers ensure their rights are protected, and lifting the cap on damages when workers pursue legal action and win their cases
  • Eliminate the tipped minimum wage, as tipped workers are vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination by clients and supervisors at a disproportionate rate

"Today, we're saying time's up: no more silence, no more compliance. We are balancing the scale that has for too long been tipped toward the wealthy, the well-connected, and the powerful. The Be HEARD Act will put long-overdue protections and accountability into law and remove barriers to justice," Clark said.

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    April 2021


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