Democrats Introduce the Be Heard Act to Combat Workplace Harassment
After over a year and a half, the government finally has a response to the Me Too Movement.
Democrats have announced a new bill aimed at curbing workplace harassment and discrimination. The architects of bill are (no surprise) the women of congress: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced the bill alongside Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). The Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace Act, or Be Heard, is designed to combat discrimination not only against women, but discrimination based on race, sexuality, gender identity, and age.
Pressley said of the bill, “Workplace harassment has caused fear and dread for so many hardworking men and women who are simply trying to make a living … I’m acutely aware of the powerlessness many workers feel.” The bill is co-sponsored by 18 Senate Democrats, including all those running for the 2020 presidential nomination.
And while the Me Too Movement has largely focused on high profile industries like entertainment, tech, and politics, the bill is designed to protect people in service jobs, factory workers, interns, and freelancers. If passed, the bill would put an end to mandatory arbitration agreements, which work almost exclusively to the company’s benefit. In forced arbitration, an employee cannot sue or join a class action lawsuit. In addition, the bill will fight some nondisclosure agreements, which keeps victims silenced and the accused protected.
In another bold move, the bill would eliminate the tipped minimum wage (currently $2.13 an hour), guaranteeing a wage for service workers that doesn’t depend entirely on customer interaction. It also strengthens current discrimination laws and gives survivors a longer time frame to file a federal lawsuit. So far the bill has received endorsements from the ACLU, the NAACP, and Time’s Up.
Unfortunately, while the bill will likely pass in the Democrat-controlled house, the Republican-controlled senate will likely vote it down, or approve it after massive changes. And even it does pass through the senate, it’s highly unlikely that our Harasser-in-Chief will sign off on the bill.
Still, it’s an important step forward in acknowledging what needs to be done and how we can begin to dismantle systemic discrimination in the workplace. Pressley said of the bill, “To the survivors who suffer in silence out of fear of retribution, know that we see you and we stand with you … To the harassers and manipulators who have hidden behind power and privilege, know that it’s a new day and your time is up.”
(via HuffPost, image: Shutterstock)
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