Kuster Backs Bicameral Agreement to Improve Sexual Harassment Policies in Congress
(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, announced her support for a bipartisan agreement on reforms to the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. Following the resignations of more than a half-dozen members of Congress over sexual misconduct allegations, Rep. Kuster worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help introduce legislation that establishes much-needed improvements to how sexual harassment is combatted on Capitol Hill. The final agreement will require lawmakers to reimburse the Treasury Department when they reach financial settlements or awards with those who accuse them of harassment or retaliation, and mandate that those settlements be made public so voters will be informed about the conduct of their elected officials. It also eliminates mandatory mediation and “cooling off” periods for accusers, expands access to telework and paid leave for those recovering from assault or harassment, and extends critical protections to unpaid staff such as interns and fellows.
“I am pleased that the House and Senate are able to come together and enact these long overdue reforms before the end of the year,” said Kuster. “In the #MeToo era, Democrats and Republicans alike are committed to advancing legislation that addresses the scourge of sexual violence and harassment across our nation. In order to do so effectively, we need to lead by example. The United States Congress must be an institution and a workplace where survivors’ allegations are taken seriously and promptly adjudicated. And American taxpayers must never again have to pay for the inappropriate behavior of lawmakers who settle harassment claims against them. This bill is an important first step but much more work remains. I look forward to continuing to tackle these issues head-on when the new Congress convenes in January.”
Congresswoman Kuster has long been a champion for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, sharing her own personal experiences involving sexual assault on the House floor and joining with 17 other Members of Congress to read Emily Doe’s open letter describing her attack and ensuing trial – which marked the first time a victim’s statement has been read in full in the House chambers. The Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence works to raise awareness and propose solutions to the challenges posed by sexual assault and released their first legislative agenda this summer. The Task Force’s areas of focus include: K-12 education, campus sexual violence, the rape kit backlog, military sexual trauma, improved data and collection, online harassment, and law enforcement training. The Senate passed the congressional anti-harassment legislation today and it is now awaiting action in the House. It will then be advanced to the President’s desk.