Bipartisan bill overhauls Senate sexual harassment policy

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |  May 23, 2018 at 2:00 PM
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May 23 (UPI) -- Bipartisan senators introduced long-awaited legislation on Wednesday to reform the upper chamber's sexual harassment policy.

Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced the bill in the Senate Wednesday.

The bill would eliminate 30-day periods for counseling, mediation and "cooling off," which are all required for victims of sexual harassment under the Congressional Accountability Act.

Under the proposed law, claimants would have 180 days to file a complaint with the Office of Compliance, which would be renamed the Office of Workplace Rights.

A hearing officer or the Senate ethics committee would be responsible for finding a senator liable for under the new legislation. Notably, senators and former senators found liable would have to personally repay taxpayer-funded settlements.

Currently, settlements are through a special Treasury Department fund. The fund would continue to pay under the proposed law, but would be reimbursed by the offending senators.

The House passed its own revision last year, which also puts individual senators on the hook for reimbursement.

The Blunt-Klobuchar bill also holds senators personally responsible for accusations "based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, genetic information, age, disability, or veteran's status."

"This bipartisan agreement sends a clear message that harassment in any form will not be tolerated in the U.S. Congress," Blunt said in a statement Wednesday. "The major reforms in this agreement will, first and foremost, strengthen protections for harassment victims. The agreement will also enhance accountability and prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for a Member's misconduct."

Although no floor time for debate on the bill has been scheduled, a joint statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said they expect the bill to pass the Senate "in short order."

Blunt said he hoped it will be voted on prior to the Memorial Day recess.

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