WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-MA-05) joined Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL-21) in reintroducing the Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace harassment through Education and Reporting (EMPOWER) Act. This legislation will lift the veil of secrecy surrounding workplace harassment, and bolster transparency and accountability.
“All forms of harassment in the workplace—whether based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or race—are abuses of power,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “Harassment and abuse threaten a worker’s career, livelihood, and dignity, and this cycle of workplace assault must end. The EMPOWER Act will ensure that any and all harassment comes to light, victims are protected, and training is implemented to create safer workplaces. It’s long past time we get this done for workers.”
This comprehensive, bipartisan and bicameral legislation will address workplace harassment by increasing transparency and accountability. It will reduce the barriers that prevent survivors from speaking out and seeking justice, helping to make workplaces safer and more equitable for all employees across all industries.
Specifically, the EMPOWER Act:
- Prohibits non-disparagement and non-disclosure clauses that cover workplace harassment as a condition of employment, promotion, compensation, benefits, or change in employment status or contractual relationship;
- Establishes a confidential tip-line for the EEOC to receive reports about harassment and target employers that continue to allow for systemic harassment at the workplace. This would supplement the EEOC’s current formal complaint process. The information would be shared with state-based Fair Employment Practice Agencies, who could also bring civil enforcement actions against employers;
- Requires that public companies disclose the number of settlements, judgments, and aggregate settlement amounts in connection with workplace harassment (as a material disclosure) in their annual SEC filings; and disclose the existence of repeat settlements with respect to a particular individual;
- Prohibits companies from receiving tax deductions for expenses and attorneys’ fees paid in connection with litigation related to workplace harassment; prohibits tax deductions for amounts paid pursuant to judgments related to workplace harassment; protects plaintiffs’ awards and settlements received in connection with workplace harassment as nontaxable income; and ensures that plaintiffs who receive frontpay or backpay as a result of harassment and discrimination are not taxed unjustly.
- Requires development and dissemination of workplace training programs to educate at all levels about what constitutes prohibited workplace harassment and how to prevent this behavior; educates employees about their rights with respect to workplace harassment, including how to report it; and trains bystanders on how to intervene and report; develops a public service advertisement campaign to provide further education on this issue.
Frankel and Clark were joined in introducing the legislation by Representatives John Katko (R-NY-24), Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-Del), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), and over four dozen additional cosponsors. A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI).