ICMYI: On International Workers’ Day, Senators Warren, Rosen, Representative Williams Reintroduced Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act
Legislation Would Require Publicly-Traded Companies to Disclose Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Settlements
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Representative Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) reintroduced the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act, legislation to require large, public corporations to publicly report all settlements and judgments related to incidents of discrimination, harassment, and sexual abuse each year. The bill would help enforce workplace protections against discrimination and harassment for people of marginalized backgrounds. Senators Warren and then-Representative Rosen previously introduced the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act in 2018. The bill would also provide investors with clarity about how prevalent these issues are in the companies they invest in.
“It is powerfully important that employees feel safe and supported in the workplace,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “The Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act will help systemically expose workplace discrimination, harassment, and abuse, ensure employers are held accountable to prevent it, and give workers the clarity they deserve.”
“For far too long, sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace have gone unreported and unheard,” said Senator Jacky Rosen. “As the nation’s largest companies try to hide behind private settlements, Congress has a responsibility to improve transparency and create a safe working environment for everyone. That’s why I’m proud to help introduce this legislation to require public companies to report sexual misconduct settlements, helping to expose harassment and abuse of power in order to protect workers.”
“No one should face harassment, discrimination, or abuse at work. Congress must bring transparency to abuse settlements so we can end the toxic culture Big Business allows to flourish,” said Representative Nikema Williams, Vice-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. “The Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act is one step toward creating a safer country for everyone–no matter who you are, who you love, or how you identify.”
As part of bringing cases of sexual harassment and abuse to light, the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act would:
- Provide investors with insight into the track records of sexual abuse or harassment or discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, service, gender identity, or sexual orientation in public companies’.
- Require public companies to publicly disclose information. The information would regard disputes settled or judgments entered against them (including through arbitration) in a given fiscal year related to sexual abuse or harassment or discrimination, including:
- The total number of settlements and judgments;
- The total dollar amount paid with respect to each;
- The date(s) of the alleged incident(s);
- The average length of time required to resolve a complaint of discrimination, harassment, or abuse; and
- The number of complaints the company is actively seeking to resolve through internal processes, arbitration, or litigation.
- Require public companies to report number and dollar amounts of settlements and judgments related to sexual abuse or harassment or discrimination over a prior seven-year period.
- Protect the privacy of victims by providing them the option of limiting the extent to which the details of their disputes are disclosed publicly, and prohibiting the disclosure of the names of victims by the SEC.
- Require public companies to disclose information on their efforts to prevent future perpetration of discrimination, harassment, and abuse by their employees.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.).
This legislation is also endorsed by: the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, the Arc of the United States, Human Rights Campaign, Equal Rights Advocates, American Association for Justice, Action Centre for Race & the Economy, Public Citizen, Futures Without Violence, Americans for Financial Reform, the National Women’s Law Center, the National Partnership for Women & Families and the National Employment Lawyers Association.
“This Act provides consumers, stakeholders, and workers with critical transparency about toxic, abusive, and discriminatory work environments,” said Esta Soler, President and Founder of Futures Without Violence. “By bringing light to these abuses, we hope corporations will prioritize safe working environments free of harassment and discrimination for their workers.”
“Public Citizen enthusiastically supports the reintroduction of the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act. The Act would hold publicly traded corporations accountable for protecting vulnerable workers by requiring them to disclose workplace sexual harassment and discrimination settlements,” said Juley Fulcher, Worker Health and Safety Advocate, Congress Watch, Public Citizen. “Shining a light on these settlements will provoke a sea change in the way these companies handle allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination and end the culture of secrecy protecting abusers that continues to exist today.”
“The status quo keeps investors in the dark about companies’ track record of discrimination, harassment, and abuse. This legislation would bring much-needed transparency to these types of disputes, a prerequisite for accountability," said Natalia Renta, senior policy counsel for corporate governance and power at Americans for Financial Reform.
“Thousands of workers experience sexual harassment and discrimination every day—and yet most investors and the public remain in the dark,” said Gaylynn Burroughs, Director of Workplace Equality and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “The Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act is designed to expose this abuse by requiring public companies to report all settlements of workplace harassment disputes, along with any judgements made against them. Everyone deserves a safe and equitable workplace—and this bill will help ensure this finally becomes a reality.”
“When sexual harassment happens at work, survivors are the ones left to deal with the emotional and economic repercussions, while employers often cover up bad behavior and move on, allowing cultures of harassment and discrimination to spread. This secrecy perpetuates sexual harassment,” said Sharita Gruberg, Vice President for Economic Justice at the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act would help put a stop to this by requiring businesses to be more transparent with investors and the public about harassment and discrimination complaints and efforts to prevent harassment, discrimination and abuse.”
“All too often, companies bury evidence of wrongdoing and allow a culture of harassment and discrimination to continue. The Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act will expose rampant rights violations by employers—so that workers can more easily connect with advocates, and companies face a stronger incentive to get serious about complying with the law “ said Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director, National Employment Lawyers Association.
“In a culture where sexual harassment and other forms of harassment and discrimination remain rampant and too often hidden from sight, we need proactive solutions,” said Jessica Stender, Policy Director & Deputy Legal Director of Equal Rights Advocates. “By requiring reporting and public disclosure of harassment and discrimination settlements, judgments, preventative measures taken, The Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act will hold corporations accountable for ignoring patterns of harassment and discrimination and lift up high-road employers that are proactively responding to these issues. We applaud Senator Warren for her leadership in seeking to shed light on these injustices so we can uproot them from our workplaces.”
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