Proposed legislation aims to protect workers from harassment

Going to work in Tennessee can become difficult for people who experience discrimination and harassment on the job. New legislation proposed by Democratic Senator Patty Murray could improve workplace protections and promote policies to prevent the mistreatment of employees. According to the senator's summary of the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would need to develop prevention strategies and make specific recommendations for industries known to have harassment and discrimination problems.

If signed into law, the act would involve the U.S. Census Bureau as well, requiring the agency to survey people about workplace harassment. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights would need to start investigating how civil rights are enforced. The law would also direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the economic harm caused by discrimination at work.

The act calls for employers with at least 15 employees to draft thorough policies about discrimination and harassment that include specific guidance about prevention and the investigation of complaints. Democrats in the House have written a companion bill that supports similar goals. Although Senate Republicans are expected to oppose expanding protections for workers, the proposed legislation represents progress for Congress, which has been identified previously as a workplace prone to sexual harassment.

Concern about the problem could eventually lead to stronger laws meant to help victims of workplace discrimination. Existing law provides some protection against mistreatment on the basis of sex, race, religion, age or disability, and an attorney may be able to improve a person's ability to address problems like sexual harassment and discrimination. Evidence communicated by an attorney might convince an employer to correct a problem or pay a settlement.

Source: CNN, "Democrats unveil bill to expand protections against workplace harassment and discrimination", Clare Foran and Sunlen Serfaty, April 9, 2019

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