Thursday, December 2, 2021
On Wednesday, the first comprehensive federal legislation on workplace harassment and discrimination was reintroduced in Congress. The Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination—or BE HEARD in the Workplace—Act aims to create a safe and harassment-free workplace, expand protections, and help facilitate justice for workers nationwide. The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Marie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and in the House by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.).
“It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you work—everyone deserves to be treated fairly, respectfully and with dignity,” said Murray.
The BE HEARD in the Workplace Act would:
- extend the scope of current laws, including civil rights protections and anti-harassment laws, to include all workers, no matter the workplace’s
- size, as well as extend these laws to apply to interns, fellows, volunteers, trainees and independent contractors;
- widen the definition of “sex discrimination” at work to include harassment and any form of discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity;
- require nondiscrimination training;
- extend the statute of limitations for complaints from 180 days to four years; and
- mandate that the Census Bureau do further research on harassment in the workplace.
“Even with the laws we have on the books and the #MeToo movement shedding light on this problem, it’s still way too easy for employers to get away with committing these offenses,” said Hirono.To promote transparency and accountability, the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act would also stop pre-employment non-disclosure agreements and mandatory arbitration, which requires employees and customers to file complaints and resolve conflicts within the company, instead of in a court. Mandatory arbitration is used in 54 percent of the cases involving non-union employers in the private sector, and the system is disadvantageous to workers, who win only 1.6 percent of these cases on average. Rates of mandatory arbitration have increased since the onset of the pandemic.