April 9, 2019
Pressley, Clark, Murray, Democrats—Joined by Workers, Survivors, and Advocates—Introduce Sweeping Legislation to Address Harassment in the Workplace
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-05), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), and Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26) introduced the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination (Be HEARD) in the Workplace Act, legislation which takes critical steps to ensure businesses have more resources to prevent harassment and workers have more support when they seek accountability and justice, and sends a clear message to those who think they can get away with assault or harassment on the job: time is up.
“Our bill will put us one step closer to making toxic workplace harassment and discrimination a dark memory of the past,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “This is for the brave women of the Boston Fire Department, for the hotel workers I worked alongside when I was scrapping money together to help my family, for the transgender men and women who face discrimination for living their truth. This is for those workers who shared their stories and instead of justice, faced retaliation. Now is the time to push the conversations and the policies so that those who have been suffering in silence feel seen and represented in our democracy.” “No matter who you are or where you work—whether you are the only woman on the board, or a janitor, or farm worker, you should be treated fairly, respectfully, and with dignity. This should be true no matter your gender or race, your religion or sexual orientation or age—and regardless of whether you have a disability or are a veteran.” said Senator Murray. “For far too long and for far too many people in our country this hasn’t been true. So today, I’m proud to be standing up to fight for change and make clear that time is up.” “Today, we’re saying time’s up: no more silence, no more compliance. We are balancing the scale that has for too long been tipped toward the wealthy, the well-connected and the powerful. The Be Heard Act will put long-overdue protections and accountability into law and remove barriers to justice,” said Congresswoman Clark.
Democrats announced the introduction at a press conference with survivors and advocates who shared their personal stories about workplace assault and harassment, and leaders from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Be HEARD Act will:
- Strengthen understanding of workplace harassment and help businesses prevent it: The Be HEARD Act invests in research about the economic impact of workplace harassment, requires regular reporting on the prevalence of workplace harassment, and ensures that
- Help ensure transparency: The Be HEARD Act puts an end to mandatory arbitration and pre-employment non-disclosure agreements, which prevent workers from coming forward and holding perpetrators and businesses accountable.
- Broaden and expand civil rights protections to all workers: The Be HEARD Act builds on and strengthens existing civil rights laws by expanding protections for workers, while also safeguarding existing antidiscrimination laws and protections. It strengthens civil rights protections for all workers and makes clear that the Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of workplace discrimination. It also ensures that no matter where you work—and whether you are an independent contractor or an intern—your rights are protected.
- Empower workers who come forward with reports of harassment or retaliation to ensure they get support: The Be HEARD Act allows workers more time to report harassment, authorizes grants to support legal assistance for workers who have low incomes, invests in delivering more resources to the state level to help workers ensure their rights are protected, and lifts the cap on damages when workers pursue legal action and win their cases.
- Eliminate the tipped minimum wage, because tipped workers are disproportionately vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination by both clients and supervisors.
Other speakers at the press conference included: Venorica Tucker, worker and advocate with Restaurant Opportunity Centers, Jennifer Glover, security guard represented by TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, Adriana Cazorla, domestic worker and advocate with National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, Maria del Carmen Ruelas, farm worker with Justice for Migrant Women Advocates, Emily Martin, NWLC Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice, Vanita Gupta, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President and CEO, and Lenora Lapidus, ACLU Director of the Women’s Rights Project.
The co-leads for the House bill introduction are: Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7), Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-8), and Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL-26).
The Senate bill is co-sponsored by: Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
The legislation has been endorsed by: Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), NAACP, TIME’S UP, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Bazelon Center for Mental Health, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Women Employed, Working IDEAL, National Partnership for Women & Families, Justice for Migrant Women, UltraViolet, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), Futures Without Violence, National Employment Law Project (NELP), People for the American Way, Workplace Fairness, National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), J Street, 9to5, Women Donors Network, Feminist Majority, Harnish Foundation, RALIANCE, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute for Law & Policy, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, Equal Rights Advocates, National Organization for Women, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Center for American Progress, American Association of University Women, Economic Opportunity Institute, Legal Voice, Communications Workers of America, Working Washington, Women’s Law Project, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Oxfam America, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment at CWIT, MS Black Women’s Roundtable, Make it Work Nevada, Kentucky Equal Justice Center, Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF), Compliance USA, Inc., Chicago Women’s Trades, Building Pathways, Black Women’s Roundtable, A Better Balance, AFL-CIO, CLASP, YWCA-USA, Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
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