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New bill seeks to force employers to publicly report sexual harassment settlements

In recent months, multiple employees across industries have come forward with their stories of workplace sexual harassment as part of the MeToo movement. In many cases, these stories were silenced through settlements or restrictive non-disclosure agreements. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, for example, reached at least eight settlements with women after they confronted him about his unwanted sexual advances for decades, according to The New York Times.

Now there’s a new bill that wants to track which companies are using money to try and keep stories of sexual harassment from going public.

Companies would need to disclose sexual harassment data

Called the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act, the bill co-sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Nevada Representative Jacky Rosen seeks to force companies to publicly report sexual harassment data. If the bill became law, companies would be required to report both the “total number” and the “total dollar amount” of settlements they had made related to sexual harassment. In addition, companies would need to report “the average length of time” it took to resolve a sexual harassment complaint.

The bill’s language is broad, seeking to protect both contractors and full-time employees in and out of the office: companies would need to report settlements that involve “the behavior of an employee of the covered issuer, or a subsidiary, contractor, or subcontractor of the covered issuer, toward another such employee, without regard to whether that behavior occurred in the workplace.”

“As #MeToo has reminded us, sexual harassment occurs in all workplaces — from factory floors to corporate boardrooms. Our bill will help systemically expose workplace harassment and push employers across the country to aggressively prevent it,”Sen. Warren said in a statement. “I’m working to make sure Congress prevents workplace harassment both within its walls and outside of them.”

While companies would get exposed, victims would still be allowed to remain anonymous. The bill would not force companies to include the names of victims in sexual harassment settlements.

The bill follows other legislation sparked by the silence around sexual harassment in the workplace. Following the Weinstein scandal, legislators in New York proposed banning confidentiality agreements that conceal sexual harassment, calling for them to be made “unconscionable, void and unenforceable.”

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