WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) today introduced legislation to strengthen workplace harassment laws. The Fair Employment Protection Act restores protections for workers harassed on the job by supervisors and those with authority to direct people’s day-to-day work. These protections were weakened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision in Vance v. Ball State University. DeLauro and Baldwin introduced similar legislation in the 113th and 114th Congresses.
“Workplace harassment remains an unacceptable reality that threatens the safety and economic security of far too many people working to build a better future for themselves and their families,” said Senator Baldwin. “I believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to get ahead. The Fair Employment Protection Act would restore important workplace protections, so women and men can move this issue forward together and provide American workers the level playing field they deserve.”
“Harassment of any kind has no place in our nation’s workplaces. That is why it is so critical that we pass the Fair Employment Protection Act,” said Representative DeLauro. “The Supreme Court’s decision to restrict victims’ ability to obtain justice—overturning a long-standing precedent—was completely misguided. Just as they did with Lilly Ledbetter’s case, a narrow majority struck at the heart of longstanding civil rights laws. I am proud to stand with my colleagues in introducing this bill to restore critical workplace protections.”
In 2016, sex discrimination comprised over 30 percent of the charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under all the statutes the agency enforces, with women filing more than 83 percent of all sexual harassment charges. Studies have shown that sexual harassment of women, including unwanted touching, grabbing, and stalking, is common in industries with low-wage jobs, like restaurants and hospitality, as well as in male-dominated industries such as construction, public safety, manufacturing, farming, and the high-tech industry. Harassment in male-dominated industries operates as a barrier to women's entry into higher-paying jobs.
The Fair Employment Protection Act clarifies when employers should be held vicariously liable for unlawful harassment. The bill would expand employer liability to include harassment by individuals who are in charge of an employee’s daily work activities, as well as supervisors who can recommend employment actions such as hiring and firing decisions.