December 12, 2017

Kaine Joins Gililbrand To Co-Sponsor 'Me Too' Bill

WASHINGTON – D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) as a cosponsor of the Member and Employee Training and Oversight on Congress Act (ME TOO Act), introduced in response to recent sexual harassment allegations in Congress and revelations that the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) process places an unfair burden on victims. The bill would reform the CAA to eliminate the mandatory steps that must be exhausted before an employee of the legislative branch can sue in federal district court and implement other provisions to expand protections and update policies at the Office of Compliance (OOC). Last week, Senator Kaine sent a letter to the Senate Office of Compliance (OOC) requesting information on the number of sexual harassment claims filed against Senators, members of their personal staff, and committee staff, along with the amount of monetary settlements that were reached in harassment cases. In the letter, Kaine wrote that he will publicly release any information he receives to help determine the scope of the problem and develop solutions. 

“I’m proud to join Senator Gillibrand on this bill that makes it easier for survivors of sexual harassment and assault to come forward, and know they will be heard,” Kaine said. “This bill would get rid of needless roadblocks to ensure instances of sexual harassment and assault are handled quickly and that there’s real accountability.”

The proposed reforms under the ME TOO Act would allow a complainant to sue in federal district court sooner because the bill would eliminate the mandatory counseling and mediation provisions of the CAA. The bill eliminates confidentiality requirements from the claims process while establishing a confidential advisor to provide guidance to victims of harassment about the process. Further, the bill authorizes the OOC General Counsel to conduct interviews and gather evidence in pursuit of these claims.

The bill also proposes to expand coverage to interns, fellows, and detailees, which remains ambiguous under the CAA. It further takes into consideration that victims of harassment may want to work remotely while their claim is considered to avoid further retaliation or unwanted attention from the accused. Finally, the bill mandates annual training and implements a tracking system to add transparency and accountability to the process.