More than 100 days after the House of Representatives passed legislation to address workplace harassment and discrimination in Congress, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Roy Blunt introduced yesterday their version of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act. Unfortunately, the Senate bill fell seriously short of the House reforms, and Open the Government shares many of our colleagues’ concerns about the bill.
OTG supported efforts in the House to improve transparency and accountability around workplace harassment and discrimination, and were pleased to see that many of the reforms encouraged by public interest organizations were ultimately included in H.R. 4924, which passed the House in February. The House bill included reforms that addressed the imbalance of power between members of Congress and Hill staffers, ended the mandatory mediation component of dispute resolution, and protected claimants from retaliation. As our colleagues pointed out in a letter yesterday, many of these reforms are missing from the Senate bill.
In addition, the Senate bill lacks sufficient improvements to transparency around workplace harassment and discrimination in Congress. While the proposed legislation requires reporting that identifies the public funds used to pay for settlements connected to discrimination claims prior to the bill’s passage, the report would apparently not identify the members or offices involved. This provision not only fails to improve transparency, it perpetuates the protection of offenders at the expense of victims.
Open the Government echoes our colleagues’ call on the Senate to work with the House to improve this bill so that it better protects victims of harassment and discrimination and makes perpetrators more accountable.