Senate Passes Legislation to Revamp Sexual Harassment Policies in Response to #MeToo Movement

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 22: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (C) talks to reporters with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) (R) following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol May 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans and Democrats said are close to advancing legislation that would reform the reporting process for victims of sexual harassment and would make members of Congress personally liable for any settlements. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to overhaul the way Congress deals with sexual harassment in its ranks, a response to the #MeToo movement that swept the nation and forced several lawmakers to resign under a cloud of misconduct allegations.

The bill is designed to hold lawmakers — including those who have left office — personally liable if they’re found to have sexually harassed a staffer or another congressional employee. That change comes after revelations last year that taxpayer money was paid out to settle for more than $342,000 in harassment and discrimination complaints involving members of the House between 2008 and 2012 — a disclosure that sparked public outrage.

The bipartisan bill passed by voice vote.

“I think it puts the responsibility where the American people think it should be,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who announced an agreement on the legislation Tuesday with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The legislation also does away with archaic congressional rules that force victims of sexual harassment to undergo counseling, mandatory arbitration, and wait for a 30-day “cooling off” period before taking a complaint to court.

The legislation updates the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act. That law applied workplace rules to Congress for the first time.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Nicole Gaudiano and Deirdre Shesgreen