WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to protect victims, strengthen transparency, and hold perpetrators accountable, Congress today passed a bill to overhaul the way the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives handle sexual harassment and sexual misconduct claims.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who strongly supported reforming the system and strengthening the law to hold members of Congress to higher standards, says the legislation is long overdue.

Both chambers voted unanimously to update the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act to streamline sexual harassment and abuse claims.  Under the new legislation, lawmakers would be unable to use taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims.  It would also improve the process for resolving complaints, eliminating the onerous requirements of waiting periods and mediation between victims and individuals accused of harassment.  

“We need to eliminate sexual harassment in all workplaces and Congress must lead by example and be accountable.  This new measure will increase protections for staff, reform the process used to report harassment and discrimination, and make any settlement process transparent so Americans are fully informed,” said Reed.  “Congress must work together to prevent discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and ensure the system is fair and workers feel empowered to report misconduct.”

In addition to requiring lawmakers accused of harassment to pay for their own settlements, the bill would streamline the process by getting rid of the former mandatory 30-day counseling period, 30-day mediation period, and 30-day “cooling off” period for victims of sexual harassment under the Congressional Accountability Act. 

Now that the legislation has passed in both chambers, it will be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.