GOP lawmakers delve further into workplace sexual harassment during bipartisan caucus hearing
Republican congresswomen serving on the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues targeted solutions to sexual harassment in the United States workforce during the bipartisan group’s recent Capitol Hill hearing on the topic.
U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, along with caucus vice chairs U.S. Reps. Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA), joined their Democratic counterparts during the Sept. 12 hearing entitled #MeToo, What’s Next? Turning a Movement into Action.
“No one, no one should have to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace,” Rep. Brooks said during her opening statement. “It is critical that we work together, whether in the public or private sectors, in every industry, to find innovative, creative and ultimately effective solutions so that every workplace is a safe environment and is free from harassment of any kind.”
Caucus members heard testimony from a variety of industry leaders who discussed ideas for promoting respect and dignity in the workplace toward ending sexual harassment on the job.
For instance, Debra Katz, a civil rights lawyer and founding partner of the Washington, D.C.-based Katz, Marshall & Banks law firm, testified before the caucus and called the #MeToo moment “a remarkable moment in our history.”
“Women are sharing their experiences of sexual harassment on a massive scale and the revelations are chilling,” Katz told caucus members during Wednesday’s almost two-hour hearing. “They’re not stopping. Every single day we read something new that’s shocking.”
Despite federal law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, it continues, she said, calling it “career-derailing” and “hideous.”
Katz, who said she has handled workplace sexual harassment cases for some 35 years representing thousands of women, noted there are specific things “that the law must do to deliver on the promise of equal protection” because the vast majority of women who’ve experienced sexual harassment at work don’t report it due to fear of retaliation. The #MeToo movement must serve as a catalyst for legislative reform, she said.
“Regardless of whether harassment comes from a coworker, manager or customer, it is always unacceptable and should never be tolerated,” said Rep. Brooks. “Congress is no exception.”
The congresswoman said the hearing also highlighted how members of Congress could help nurture safer work environments “so that men and women can comfortably work without the fear of facing inappropriate behavior.”
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), caucus co-chair with Rep. Brooks, said that workplace sexual harassment “is a real economic issue and a big factor that’s holding women back from opportunities and advancing in their careers.”
Last week’s hearing was the third in a series of hearings on the topic held by the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. The first hearing held on March 19 focused on sexual harassment in the service sector. The second hearing on April 25, entitled From Silicon Valley to the Factory Floor: Time’s Up for Sexual Harassment in Male-Dominated Jobs, featured testimonies from sexual harassment survivors and other experts who discussed how to change workplace culture.
In addition to the Republican lawmakers and Rep. Frankel, the Sept. 12 hearing also was hosted by U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) vice chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).