Politics

Donald Trump Signs Overhaul of Anti-Harassment Law for Members of Congress, Staff

Update to Congressional Accountability Act will be in effect for new Congress

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., right, has been among the key advocates of improving the process for handling sexual harassment claims at the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump has signed legislation overhauling the process for responding to claims of harassment on Capitol Hill.

The measure signed Friday night updates the reporting and resolution process established as part of the 1995 law that governs workplace harassment and discrimination claims in Congress, dubbed the Congressional Accountability Act.

The Office of Compliance has handled cases totaling at least $15 million in settlements about harassment or discrimination allegations since 1997.The practice flew under the radar until the #MeToo movement emerged in late 2017 and lawmakers and taxpayers began to call for change.

More than 1,500 former congressional staffers sent a letter last year demanding changes to the law to protect accusers.

The new law is designed to hold members liable for their own bad behavior, but not for that of their staff.

With Trump signing the legislation Friday night, it will be in effect in time for the start of the 116th Congress. Meeting that deadline was a key objective of the House members and senators who worked out the compromise between the two chambers.

The White House announced Friday evening that Trump had signed the measure into law as part of the barrage of measures signed shortly before the end of the Congress.

The final bill passed the House and Senate by unanimous consent last week, after which outgoing House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper, R-Miss., outlined the measure and internal policy changes already implemented by the House.

“Over the last year, the House implemented mandatory training for all Members and staff, included that mandatory training for incoming Members-Elect at New Member Orientation, created the Office of Employee Advocacy, set minimum requirements for each office with respect to anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, and amended House rules,” Harper said in a statement. “The bill ... focuses on protecting victims, strengthening transparency, improving the adjudication process, and for the first time in the history of Congress, holding Members of the House and Senate personally liable for unlawful harassment and retaliation.”

Watch: Senate Quickly Passes Sexual Harassment Bill By Unanimous Consent

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