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Congress Steps Up on Their Own Sex Harassment Issues

The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have reached consensus on revising the rules governing accusations of sexual harassment against members of Congress. The bill is called the Congressional Accountability Act. Citing a process lacking in transparency and accountability, the bill is being touted as a remedy to a broken process that will allow victims to seek immediate justice and will hold Congress accountable.
It has taken over a year for the separate houses of Congress to reach an accord on the issues. Members of Congress will now be liable for their own settlements of sexual harassment claims. Congressional members will have their liability capped at $300,000 when there is a court process assessing damages however, there is no cap on cases ending in settlements. The Treasury Department will continue to be responsible for making initial payments so that victims are compensated promptly. However, Congressional members will repay the government on a set schedule. The House of Representatives’ staff will be entitled to legal counsel and Senate staffers will receive legal assistance when they make claims of harassment. The deal eradicates the former required 30 day cooling off period before a complaint can be filed. Employees alleging sexual harassment will be permitted to work remotely or take paid leave during the time it takes to resolve the issues.
All settlements under the agreement will now be made public and an annual review will be available to the public. The amendments go into effect in June 2019. Congressional offices must also implement training programs to educate employees about their rights under the Congressional Accountability Act.