Over a year since a number of sexual harassment scandals shook Congress, lawmakers in the House and Senate appear to have agreed on legislation that updates the old Congressional Accountability Act, by streamlining the reporting process, expanding coverage, and holding harassers personally and financially accountable.
The new version of the bill discards burdensome procedural requirements, such as mandatory counseling, mediation, and “cooling off periods,” that were onerous for victims. The bill also expands protections to interns, fellows, and other staff.
Additionally, Congressmembers will now be held personally liable for harassment or retaliation settlements, even if they leave their office. All settlements must be made public and will be reviewed by an ethics committee.
The House version of the bill included more aggressive measures, such as making lawmakers liable for discrimination settlements and mandating an independent investigation at the beginning of the process. Representative Jackie Speier of California, who led the original House bill, said that she plans to introduce a bill in the next House to fill in those gaps and strengthen Congress’ rules against discrimination.
Read more on the agreement here.