U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark and Ayanna Pressley, both of Massachusetts, introduced an anti-sexual harassment bill in the House that aims to reduce workplace inequalities, mistreatment, and violence for all workers.
The bill, called the "Be HEARD" Act: Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace, would grant federal protection to employees who find themselves without recourse in a toxic work environment of sexual harassment or sexual orientation discrimination.
“Today, we’re saying time’s up: no more silence, no more compliance”, said Congresswoman Clark. “We are balancing the scale that has been tipped toward the wealthy, the well-connected and the powerful for far too long. The Be Heard Act will put long-overdue protections and accountability into law and remove barriers to justice.”
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 workers have access to more information and training about what constitutes harassment and their rights if they are harassed.
- 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 anti-discrimination 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 wage: The Be HEARD Act eliminates the tipped minimum wage, because tipped workers are disproportionately vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination by both clients and supervisors.