U.S. House passes sexual harassment bill

Arizona readers may be interested to learn that the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would overhaul parts of the Congressional Accountability Act, the system that handles sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill. The legislation was created in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

The bill, which was passed on Feb. 6, would make the reporting system for sexual harassment claims more transparent and easier for victims to navigate. It would also identify members of Congress who use Treasury funds to pay off victims and demand repayment of the money within 90 days. Furthermore, it would do away with a mandate that requires 30 days of mediation and counseling before a congressional employee can file a harassment claim.

However, critics of the bill point out that it will make it more difficult for members of the general public to learn about sexual harassment cases. They also point out that the law will make it harder for congressional employees to sue members of Congress for harassment, discrimination and other work-related matters. Under the new system, congressional employees will be able to report sexual harassment claims to the Office of Compliance, which will perform an investigation. If the OOC determines that a claim has merit and a settlement must be paid, the results will be referred to the House Ethics Committee.

Workplace sexual harassment is forbidden under state and federal law. Employees who have suffered on-the-job sexual harassment may have grounds to file a claim against their employers. An attorney familiar with employment law could review an employee's claim and explain all legal options available. For example, legal counsel may recommend documenting incidents of harassment and filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This could lead to a financial settlement.

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