Legislation aimed at workplace harassment

Bipartisan legislation to curb workplace harassment and end the culture of fear of those in power from their victims has been introduced in Congress.

The Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace harassment through Education and Reporting Act (EMPOWER) would reduce barriers that prevent victims from speaking out and seeking justice, and put companies on notice that they can no longer financially protect harassers in secret, said sponsoring Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Kamala D. Harris, D-CA.

The bill would give individuals the resources they need to address systemic workplace harassment. This includes prohibiting non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses that employers have required individuals to sign as a condition of employment.

The bill would establish a confidential tip-line to receive reports about harassment to allow the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to target employers that continue to allow for systemic harassment at the workplace.  This would supplement the EEOC’s current formal complaint process, and information would be shared with state-based Fair Employment Practice Agencies, who could also bring civil enforcement actions against employers.

The bill would also prohibit companies from tax deductions for expenses and attorneys’ fees in connection with litigation related to workplace harassment and require development and dissemination of workplace training programs to educate at all levels about what constitutes workplace harassment and how to prevent this behavior.