There is an average of 7,000 reports of workplace sexual harassment each year. That number is already high, but it is also not accurate. Many employees who experience sexual harassment do not often report improper behavior.
The law protects employees from both harassment and retaliation in the workplace, but unfortunately, these incidents still occur.
Now, Pennsylvania lawmakers have proposed two new bills to help employees and officials combat sexual harassment.
1. Preventing Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace
The #MeToo movement gained traction in early 2017, bringing public attention to the problem of sexual harassment. It also inspired more employees to report the harassment they experienced in the workplace. However, Pennsylvania lawmakers had trouble keeping up with the movement.
This year, lawmakers introduced sexual harassment legislation all session. And that led to two bills for the General Assembly to vote on.
This first bill seeks to give employees more time to report an incident and file a complaint. Currently, Pennsylvania law requires employees to file a report within 180 days of the incident. 180 days does not give employees much time to collect the evidence they might need to report sexual harassment.
Giving employees more time could help them build up the confidence and support they need to file a complaint.
2. #TimesUp-Sexual Harassment by Public Officials
The second bill on the roster will strive to hold public officials to the same standards as any other employee. Several news stories across the nation have involved accusations of sexual harassment against public employees and government officials. But most government agencies investigate these accusations privately.
This bill aims to expand the State Ethics Commission’s responsibilities and abilities when investigating all claims against employees at any level of government.
Could these bills really help prevent sexual harassment?
According to State Rep. Margo Davidson, the Assembly hopes these bills:
- Establish proper procedures for reporting harassment
- Ensure that harassers face penalties
- Help individuals who experience harassment to come forward
Providing more time and more protections could certainly help support employees standing up to sexual harassment in the future. Easier procedures could help more employees report these incidents, and more reports—and the penalties that follow—could indeed help bring an end to workplace sexual harassment. But we have yet to see how lawmakers will enforce laws like this, or whether these two bills will pass.
However, in the meantime, many employees still feel intimidated and overwhelmed when dealing with sexual harassment at work. An experienced employment lawyer can help protect their rights and put an end to the harassment they face.