Bill to address workplace harassment introduced

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WASHINGTON (CBS19 NEWS) -- More than a dozen members of the U.S. Senate, including Tim Kaine, have introduced a bill to address harassment in the workplace.

According to a release, the Bringing an End to harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace Act, or Be HEARD, will take steps to ensure businesses have more resources to prevent harassment and workers have more support when they seek accountability and justice.

“All employees, no matter their gender, age, or pay grade, should be treated with respect and feel safe in their work environment,” said Kaine. “This bill is an effort to prevent workplace harassment, strengthen key protections across industries, and support all workers in their efforts to seek justice.”

The legislation would strengthen understanding of workplace harassment and help businesses prevent it by investing in research about the economic impact of workplace harassment, requiring regular reporting on the prevalence of workplace harassment, and ensuring workers have access to more information and training about what constitutes harassment.

It would also help ensure transparency by putting an end to mandatory arbitration and pre-employment non-disclosure agreements that prevent workers from coming forward and holding offenders accountable.

It would also broaden and expand civil right protections to all workers while also safeguarding existing and anti-discrimination laws and protections, making clear the Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of the workplace, and ensuring that individual rights are protected no matter where a person works.

Be HEARD also empowers workers who do come forward to report harassment or retaliation to ensure support by allowing more time to report, authorizing grants to support legal assistance for low-income workers, investing in delivering more resources to the state level to help workers' rights are protected and lifting caps on damages when legal action is pursued and the worker wins.

Lastly, it would eliminate the tipped minimum wage, because the release says tipped workers are disproportionately vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination by clients and supervisors.

A matching bill has also been introduced in the U.S. House.

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