All The Single Ladies – No, Not Beyoncé

By:  Amy Epstein Gluck

So, is “All the Single Ladies” on Capitol Hill this week? Nope. Rather, it’s Every. Single. Lady.

What am I talking about? Am I talking in code? Am I about to go out on the road with Beyoncé?

Not so much.

I’m talking about this report that every single one of the 22 female senators have requested that the Senate pass a new law concerning a much revised and updated sexual harassment complaint process on the Hill.

Now, keep in mind what my partner Rich Cohen told you a few months ago when we learned that Congress was clearly, CLEARLY reading our blog: both Houses of Congress have mandated sexual harassment training—the Senate approved a resolution for all employees (yes, of course including senators) and the House of Representatives had approved legislation for training.

While Rich noted that our legislators were likely to install updated mechanisms for dealing with sexual harassment complaints and remediating them, it seems that the current law, the Congressional Accountability Act (“CAA”), passed 23 years ago, is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Note that both parties have criticized the CAA system as outdated and in need of some freshening up.

But what’s outdated about it?

According to the Office of Compliance website, filing an official complaint about sexual (or, I assume race, age, disability-based) harassment on the Hill involves a cumbersome, multistep dispute resolution process that can last for months on end.

Hard to understand the issue the Senate is having especially since in February, the House unanimously passed a bill that would overhaul the CAA by simplifying the complaint process, granting House staff free legal representation, and ensuring that lawmakers who harass employees pay for settlements.

Currently, Senate staff who face sexual harassment or other type of sex discrimination must pay personally for legal representation or represent themselves through complicated legal proceedings.

The lady senators are….not thrilled. They wrote to Senate Leader McConnell and Senator Schumer, seeking the same resources for the Senate Staff that the House staff enjoys. Some excerpts from their letter include:

We write to express our deep disappointment that the Senate has failed to enact meaningful reforms to the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. We urge you to bring before the full Senate legislation that would update and strengthen the procedures available to survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination in congressional workplaces.

Everyone deserves to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. In November, with your leadership, the Senate took an important first step in the effort to end harassment and discrimination in congressional workplaces with the passage of S. Res. 330, which requires anti-harassment and discrimination training for all Senators and staff at least once each Congress.

… The time has come to rewrite the CAA to provide a more equitable process that supports survivors of harassment and discrimination.

Inaction is unacceptable when a survey shows that four out of 10 women congressional staffers believe that sexual harassment is a problem on Capitol Hill and one out of six women in the same survey responded that they have been the survivors of sexual harassment.

You can read the full letter here.

Anyway, no word yet as to an answer, but we’ll be sure to let you know. What do you think?

If it helps, I’m happy to send them our Sexual Harassment Prevention 101 guide.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.