Warren Leads Senate HELP Committee Democrats' Call for Immediate Hearings on Workplace Sexual Harassment
"Anywhere from 25% to 85%" of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Washington, DC – Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), requesting they immediately call hearings on workplace sexual harassment and assault. All HELP Committee Democrats joined Senator Warren in sending the letter.
The HELP committee has oversight over the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is the primary government body charged with enforcing federal laws against workplace discrimination, including harassment. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, the EEOC received 91,503 complaints. 26,934 complaints alleged discrimination on the basis of sex – nearly 50% of which involved sexual harassment. It is estimated that up to 90% of individuals who are sexually harassed never file formal complaints about their harassment.
A recent report by the EEOC found that “anywhere from 25% to 85%” of women have endured sexual harassment in the workplace. Women are more likely to experience sexual harassment than men, and low-income women and women of color face unique barriers to sexual harassment reporting and prevention. Despite the pervasiveness of harassment, the HELP committee has yet to hold a hearing on workplace sexual harassment during the 115th Congress.
“The public is rightly outraged by this scourge of sexual harassment. It’s time for Congress to play a leadership role in tackling the problem of workplace sexual harassment and assault to show that that Congress, like the public, sees harassment and discrimination as unacceptable,” wrote the senators. “This committee, which is charged with overseeing the EEOC and all matters related to American workers, should step up and take the lead.”
The deluge of workers who have come forward to report incidents of workplace sexual harassment and assault in recent months has rightly caused Congress to reexamine existing anti-harassment policies and forced questions on whether current worker protections are effective. It has also suggested that the EEOC may not have the resources needed to fulfill its mission. In the letter, the senators made clear that it is their duty to hold hearings on what must be done to protect workers across the country from sexual harassment and assault in their jobs.
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