Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms, including physical assaults or rape, hostile work environments, and quid pro quo situations such as requiring sexual favors in exchange for career advancement or retention.
Any unwanted or unwelcomed sexual advance or contact that hinders an individual’s ability to perform their job, or creates an offensive work environment, can be considered sexual harassment.
Democrat and Republican lawmakers have joined together to introduce new bipartisan and bicameral legislation to fight sexual harassment in the workplace. The “Ending the Monopoly of Power over Workplace Harassment Through Education and Reporting Act” (EMPOWER Act) was introduced into the House of Representatives and Senate this past July.
According to the legislation’s sponsors, the purpose of the EMPOWER Act is to promote greater accountability and transparency when it comes to workplace sexual harassment cases. By addressing the pervasive nature of workplace sexual harassment, the legislation aims to create respectful and equitable working environments for all employees.
What will the EMPOWER Act Do?
Under the language of the EMPOWER Act, companies involved in sexual harassment claims will be restricted from covering up the problem. The proposed law focuses on five action steps to accomplish company transparency and accountability. These include:
- Barring the use of non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements from company contracts
- Mandatory disclosing of sexual harassment settlements in the annual filings of publicly held companies to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Creating an additional confidential sexual harassment tip-line to supplement the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) current complaint process
- Disallowing taxpayer money to be used to fund harassment settlements under the tax code and requiring companies to develop mandatory sexual harassment prevention training programs.
The law’s sponsors have referenced the influence of the #MeToo movement, with respect to the timing of the legislation. The #MeToo social media campaign has broadly exposed the issue of workplace sexual harassment in a wide range of industries ranging from Hollywood to Wall Street. Actress Alyssa Milano ignited the controversial movement with her 2017 allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein under the tag #MeToo.
Many women in other industries subsequently went public with their sexual harassment claims against high profile executives, including entrepreneur Steve Wynn, Guess co-founder Paul Marciano, and television personality Matt Lauer.
Sexual Harassment and Congress
Congress recently addressed its own process of handling sexual harassment claims by introducing separate legislation to reform the outdated Congressional Accountability Act, which governs sexual harassment claims in Congress. This Legislation passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The Senate passed its own revised version of the Act, but a final bill has yet to be voted into law by both houses.
Sexual harassment watchdog groups are hopeful the EMPOWER Act does not suffer a similar fate. Over 20 advocacy groups, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Human Rights Campaign, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, the NAACP, and the National Women’s Law Center, have publicly supported the proposed legislation.
Middletown Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Handle Workplace Sexual Harassment Matters throughout New Jersey
If you are involved in a sexual harassment situation, the experienced Middletown sexual harassment lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. are ready to assist you. Our dedicated New Jersey employment lawyers represent employers and employees in all types of sexual harassment matters.
Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.