Murray’s ‘Be HEARD’ Act aims to combat workplace harassment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 10, 2019) — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination (Be HEARD) in the Workplace Act on Tuesday, legislation that takes critical steps to ensure businesses have more resources to prevent harassment and workers have more support when they seek accountability and justice, and sends a clear message to those who think they can get away with assault or harassment on the job: time is up.

Joining Murray at a news conference introducing the Be HEARD legislation were House sponsors Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and several survivors and advocates who shared their personal stories about workplace assault and harassment. They included two women from Washington state: Adriana Cazorla, a Washington state domestic worker and advocate with National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, and Maria del Carmen Ruelas, a farm worker with Justice for Migrant Women Advocates. Additionally, leaders from the National Women’s Law Center, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union participated and highlighted the urgent need to pass the legislation.

“No matter who you are or where you work — whether you are the only woman on the board, or a janitor, or farm worker, you should be treated fairly, respectfully, and with dignity,” Murray said. “This should be true no matter your gender or race, your religion or sexual orientation or age — and regardless of whether you have a disability or are a veteran. For far too long and for far too many people in our country this hasn’t been true. So today, I’m proud to be standing up to fight for change and make clear that time is up.”

The Be HEARD Act will:

●  Strengthen understanding of workplace harassment and help businesses prevent it — The Be HEARD Act invests in research about the economic impact of workplace harassment, requires regular reporting on the prevalence of workplace harassment, and ensures that workers have access to more information and training about what constitutes harassment and their rights if they are harassed.

●  Help ensure transparency — The Be HEARD Act puts an end to mandatory arbitration and pre-employment non-disclosure agreements, which prevent workers from coming forward and holding perpetrators and businesses accountable.

●  Broaden and expand civil rights protections to all workers — The Be HEARD Act builds on and strengthens existing civil rights laws by expanding protections for workers, while also safeguarding existing antidiscrimination laws and protections. It strengthens civil rights protections for all workers and makes clear that the Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of workplace discrimination. It also ensures that no matter where you work—and whether you are an independent contractor or an intern—your rights are protected.

●  Empower workers who come forward with reports of harassment or retaliation to ensure they get support — The Be HEARD Act allows workers more time to report harassment, authorizes grants to support legal assistance for workers who have low incomes, invests in delivering more resources to the state level to help workers ensure their rights are protected, and lifts the cap on damages when workers pursue legal action and win their cases.

●  Eliminate the tipped wage — The Be HEARD Act eliminates the tipped minimum wage, because tipped workers are disproportionately vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination by both clients and supervisors.

In addition to Murray, the Senate bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). The House bill is being introduced by Clark and Pressley, along with Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.)

Watch the full press conference announcing the Be HEARD Act HERE.

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