US - Legislation seeks enforcement power to fight workplace sexual harassment


New legislation intended to bring enforcement power to the fight against workplace sexual harassment has been put before Congress, The Hill reports.

The BE HEARD (Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination) in the Workplace Act was introduced by Senator Patty Murray and Representatives Katherine Clark and Ayanna Pressley.

In the wake of Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement, the Be Heard Act is intended to support working women in the fight against inequalities, violence and mistreatment.

Independent contract workers are reportedly not covered by the federal anti-discrimination law, Title VII, at present. Women working for employers with fewer than 15 employees also have no official protection from sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination.

Even women covered by the law, when seeking action for serious harassment - like sexual assault and rape - see damages figures calculated and restricted by the size of the employer’s business, rather than the level of pain and suffering experienced.

The Be Heard Act takes a step towards redressing the imbalance in federal employment and civil rights law. It could offer the chance for survivors to seek justice without having to sign away the right to talk about their cases, settlements or experiences.

The new legislation supports an overall move towards better research, education and training in workers’ rights. It seeks to make all workplaces safe and equitable.