Rep. Ro Khanna Announces 2 Bills Taking Aim at Sexual Harassment
Federal lawmakers announced two new bills to combat sexual harassment. One would require companies to publicly disclose all sexual harassment settlements and the other would exempt buyouts paid to sexual harassers from tax deductibility.
Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) announced the proposals this week with a number of co-sponsors, including Reps. Carolyn Mahoney (D-New York), Annie Kuster (D-Hopkington) and Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).
The proposed laws aim to end the corporate culture of secrecy around sexual harassment and to prevent companies from turning Bill O’Reilly-like severances into another cost of doing business, Khanna’s office explained. The hope is that with stronger incentives to prevent sex-based discrimination, companies will try harder to prevent it from happening in the first place.
“We are in a moment of reckoning,” Maloney said in announcing the two bills. “What was once confined to the whisper networks of warnings between women has been brought into the light and we owe it to all the women coming forward with their #MeToo stories, and those still suffering in silence, to act and make things better.”
Taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize payouts to sexual harassers and companies shouldn’t use the buyouts to lower their taxes, she added.
Khanna, who recently teamed up with Maloney on a proposal to classify stealthing—otherwise known as non-consensual condom removal—as sexual assault, commended his colleague for “leading the way” toward gender parity in the workplace. To achieve equality, he said, it’s important to end secrecy about sexual harassment.
“This legislation will ensure that workplaces are held to a standard of accountability and transparency in dealing with claims of harassment, assault and gender discrimination,” Khanna said in a statement.
The Ending Secrecy About Workplace Sexual Harassment Act would mandate that companies report the number of sexual harassment and sexual assault settlements to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on an annual basis. It would also include whistleblower protections and require the EEOC to provide a yearly report to Congress about sexual harassment data it gathers, including the number of complaints received and what enforcement actions were taken.