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Reps. Frankel, Katko, Underwood, Fitzpatrick, Blunt-Rochester, Nadler, Sen. Hirono Introduce Comprehensive Workplace Harassment Legislation

Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill will Empower Employees to Speak Out Against Harassment

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), John Katko (R-NY-24), Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-Del), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), along with 60 additional cosponsors, re-introduced the Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace Harassment Through Education and Reporting (EMPOWER) Act. This bipartisan bill will lift the veil of secrecy surrounding workplace harassment, strengthen employee protections, and increase transparency and accountability to create safer workplaces across America. A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

“Everyone deserves to work with dignity in a safe workplace, said Rep. Frankel. “Survivors of harassment should not be silenced. This bill allows workers to speak out against hostile work environments without penalty, provides them fairer compensation, and holds liable employers accountable.”

“I’m proud to help lead the bipartisan EMPOWER Act to end the culture of silence around workplace harassment. Employers are increasingly using non-disclosure agreements to force workers to sign away their rights to speak out about harassment,” said Rep. Underwood. “By prohibiting this practice, the EMPOWER Act will help ensure that everyone has a safe and dignified work environment.”

“It’s past time to put an end to the culture of silence surrounding workplace harassment, which has only perpetuated hostile work environments,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Our bipartisan legislation will hold perpetrators accountable and provide victims with the resources and support they need to report harassment or abuse in the workplace without fear of retribution.”

“Everyone has the right to a harassment-free workplace, and from our farms to our factory floors, we cannot allow sexual misconduct and cultures of silence to continue,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “With the goal of creating workplaces and a society where all are safe to thrive, this bill clearly defines sexual harassment, creates transparency and accountability, and aims to remove the fear of retribution for victims speaking out. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation that empowers victims and ultimately makes meaningful strides in ending sexual harassment and creating cultures of respect at companies everywhere.”

“As a nation, we have failed to provide every person with a safe and fair work environment,” said Rep. Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “Congress now has the long overdue opportunity to rectify this injustice. We must act. The EMPOWER Act will make meaningful progress toward ending workplace harassment. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bipartisan, bicameral legislation.”

“The #MeToo movement exposed the ways powerful people and corporations used non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements to hide workplace harassment,” said Sen. Hirono. “The EMPOWER Act will level the playing field by outlawing these agreements, enabling workers to speak out and hold their harassers to account.”

The EMPOWER Act is the most comprehensive bipartisan bill on workplace harassment. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Ban the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as a condition of employment, which will empower workers to speak out about harassment;
  • Hold workplaces accountable by requiring publicly-traded companies to disclose harassment-based settlements and awards on annual financial filings;
  • Close loopholes in the tax code that put taxpayers on the hook for the costs companies incur litigating harassment claims;
  • End the tax penalty on survivors of workplace harassment who receive damages, and;
  • Direct the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to create and disseminate resources to help foster safe and respectful workplaces.

The EMPOWER Act has been endorsed by American Association of University Women, Economic Policy Institute, Human Rights Campaign, Justice for Migrant Women, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Employment Law Association, National Women’s Law Center, and The Urban League.

Full text of the legislation can be found here and a summary can be found here.

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