Civil Rights Groups Release Workplace Harassment Principles as Senator’s Report Shows Need for Federal Action

Categories: Economic Security, Press Releases, Women's Rights

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shin Inouye, 202.869.0398, inouye@civilrights.org

WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center, and more than 50 organizations released a series of principles and recommendations to Congress to strengthen and expand protections against workplace harassment for workers in the private and public sectors, and the military. The need for reforms is bolstered by a ground-breaking report on workplace harassment released today by Senator Patty Murray, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

“It is crystal clear that federal protections against harassment are not working for many, as documented in Senator Murray’s report,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference. “We applaud Ranking Member Murray for her report, which confirms the urgent need for action so that all workers are protected from harassment and can perform their jobs in safety and dignity. Reforms to expand coverage to more workers, prevent retaliation, and increase enforcement are long overdue.”

Ranking Member Murray’s report documents the widespread incidence of harassment across industries and sectors, and highlights the many challenges faced by workers, particularly those in jobs with low wages. The lack of a clear process for handling complaints or accountability and the fear of retaliation means that even the statistics in the report greatly underestimate the actual occurrence of harassment. The report also documents the large portion of the workforce who are not covered by federal protections either because they work for small businesses or work as independent contractors. The report also notes there is limited data about harassment based on race, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Just last week, both the House and Senate unanimously passed the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, which expands and strengthens protections against workplace harassment and discrimination for legislative branch employees. That bill is still awaiting the president’s signature to become law.

The principles released by the organizations state:

  • Existing civil rights and workplace protections must be strengthened, and we will not accept a single step backward.
  • Reforms must address all forms of discrimination and harassment, not only sexual harassment.
  • Reforms must expand legal protections against harassment and discrimination to all working people.
  • Reforms must restore power to working people and limit employer-imposed secrecy.
  • Reforms must remove barriers to accessing justice.
  • Reforms must strengthen existing protections against retaliation.
  • Reforms must promote prevention.
  • Reforms must be accompanied by greater resource allocations to enforcement agencies.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.