Congress Passes Bipartisan Bill Making Lawmakers Personally Liable for Paying Sexual Harassment Settlements
Congress passed a bipartisan bill today that will overhaul the policies regarding the handling of sexual harassment claims within the legislative body, according to the Associated Press.
The biggest change to the Congressional Accountability Act, which was first passed in 1995, is that lawmakers, including those who leave office, will be personally financially liable for any settlements resulting from harassment and retaliation. There is no cap on the amount for which a legislator could be held liable.
The overhaul of the law—the first significant change since it was established—does away with a mandatory waiting period before victims may request an administrative hearing or file a lawsuit. The new changes to the bill also put an end to mandatory counseling and mediation for victims. Furthermore, the new bill mandates public reporting of settlements, which includes identifying lawmakers found to be liable.
A number of Congressional representatives resigned their seats this past year, particularly as 2017 came to an end. Michigan Democrat—and the longest serving member of Congress at that time—Rep. John Conyers resigned amid sexual harassment allegations. So did Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, as well as Arizona Republican Trent Franks, who reportedly asked staffers to serve as surrogates and bear his children. Texas Republican Blake Farenthold also resigned in April 2018 while under investigation for using taxpayer money to settle allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
The updated bill now heads to President Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.