Congresswoman Lawrence Introduces the Congressional Sexual Harassment Training Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) today introduced the Congressional Sexual Harassment Training Act, which would require every congressional office to enroll employees in training to prevent sexual harassment. The Office of Compliance (OOC), which enforces workplace protection laws for the legislative branch, already offers sexual harassment training about employees’ rights and recourses, but it is not mandatory. At the present time, executive branch employees must complete anti-harassment training every two years, while only ethics and cybersecurity trainings are mandatory for congressional offices.
“As a former human resources manager and certified Equal Employment Opportunity investigator for a federal agency, I care deeply about preventing and responding to sexual harassment in federal workplaces, and I believe it is unconscionable that every congressional office is not required to participate in this simple training solution that is already available,” said Rep. Lawrence. “We must take this small, first step to support our employees’ rights and serve as an example to the nation.”
“Sexual harassment is deplorable and unacceptable in any workplace. Recent reports of high-profile and widespread sexual harassment and assault –including the cases of Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Uber, and many others– emphasize that this is a pervasive problem across our country. This must stop. The first step is to use the tools we already have on hand by mandating that every office participate in existing sexual harassment training.”
Since 2011, the OOC has recommended that Congress make anti-harassment training mandatory, but it has not yet done so. This bill would ensure that all offices covered by the OOC, including congressional and support offices, enroll their employees in an existing sexual harassment training, which informs them of their rights and avenues for recourse and educates them on unacceptable behavior in the workplace. The bill requires offices to enroll all employees in the training once every two years and enroll new employees within 60 days. Offices could also offer additional trainings, but every office must complete this minimum requirement. This bill will align the congressional offices with the standards of our federal agencies.
“We must all work together to protect women and all our employees. This is not a divisive or partisan issue, this is something we can do today. More can be done, and more should be done in tackling this important issue; but this is an important first step. It requires every single member of Congress to stand up and be held accountable for preventing sexual harassment. I call on my colleagues to support this legislation and protections for employees, as I intend to stand strong with those who would do the same.”
- In a July 2017 Roll Call survey of congressional staff, one in six women said they had personally been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, while four in 10 women said they believe sexual harassment is a problem on Capitol Hill. Only 10% of women are aware of structures in place for reporting harassment in Congress.
- The Office of Compliance, which enforces legislative branch workplace protections, has
- Recommended for years, in its annual reports to Congress, that anti-harassment training be mandatory for each office. Mandatory training is a best practice to help prevent incidents and protect employees.
- Congress has not acted to simply make the existing training mandatory. Previous legislative attempts have tried to fund OOC’s harassment training and require House offices to include harassment training in ethics training. This bill requires all covered legislative offices to participate in the training already offered by the OOC. The OOC provides a 23-minute online sexual harassment training.
- The bill requires employing offices to ensure that current employees enroll in training every two years, and new employees enroll no more than 60 days after they are hired.