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US Senate passes bill to revamp sexual harassment policies

The bill is designed to hold lawmakers, including those who have left office, personally liable if found to have sexually harassed a staffer or another congressional employee

Gulf News

Washington: The US Senate has passed a legislation to overhaul the way Congress deals with sexual harassment in its ranks, a response to the #MeToo movement, the media reported.

The bill passed on Thursday evening is designed to hold lawmakers, including those who have left office, personally liable if found to have sexually harassed a staffer or another congressional employee, reports USA Today.

The bill comes after revelations last year that taxpayer money was paid out to settle for more than $342,000 in harassment and discrimination complaints involving members of the House between 2008 and 2012 — a disclosure that sparked public outrage.

The bipartisan bill passed by voice vote.

“I think it puts the responsibility where the American people think it should be,” said Republican Senator Roy Blunt, who announced an agreement on the legislation on Tuesday with Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.

The legislation also does away with archaic congressional rules that force victims of sexual harassment to undergo counselling, mandatory arbitration, and wait for a 30-day “cooling off” period before taking a complaint to court, the USA Today reported.

“This is a good day for changing the rules so that the deck is not stacked against victims who should be in a safe workplace,” Klobuchar said on Thursday.

The House passed its own bipartisan legislation to revamp sexual harassment policies by a voice vote in February — a bill that soon stalled in the Senate.

The Senate bill will now have to be reconciled with the House version, unless House Republican leaders agree to accept the Senate proposal without changes.

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