A bipartisan effort is underway in Congress to combat the pervasive workplace harassment brought to light by the #MeToo movement. U.S. House representatives from both parties introduced a bill on Wednesday that already has sister legislation in the Senate aimed at holding public companies accountable for sexual misconduct. But in order for the measure to have any real world effects, it must first pass a vote in Congress — and you can show your support for the EMPOWER Act to fight workplace harassment if you want to see it become law.
"Ultimately there was a monopoly of power in workplace harassment. Those who control a paycheck, or a reputation, or a promotion have the power to perpetrate harassment, to protect harassers, and to silence victims," Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), one of the bill's sponsors, said during a Wednesday press conference. "Today we say time’s up to this misconduct."
The bill's full name, Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace Harassment Through Education and Reporting, cuts to the point of what it's all about: giving employees the tools to speak out about harassment they experience on the job. If it passes into law, the legislation would create a confidential, federal tip-line; require that public companies disclose harassment settlements; prohibit non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements in employee contracts; and reform the tax code to protect any money survivors receive.
If you want to see the bill successfully make its way through Congress, the best way to show your support is to ask your representatives to champion the measure. Reps. Frankel, Ted Poe (R-TX), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced the bill in the House, while Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a similar bill in the Senate last month. Contacting other members of Congress about the EMPOWER Act will let them know that there's an appetite among their constituents to see it pass.
Contacting your representatives is fairly easy, and doesn't take much time. You can use the Call Your Rep website to find out who represents your district, along with their respective phone numbers. You can call your representative's Washington, D.C. office, a local office, or both if you want to make the most impact. Once you have a staffer on the phone, all you need to do is tell them your name, the city you're from, and briefly explain that you want their office to support the EMPOWER Act.
If you'd rather avoid talking on the phone, Resistbot can help you quickly send a message to your representatives' office. When you text the word "resist" to 50409, the bot will ask you a few questions before prompting you to write a note it then faxes to Capitol Hill.
Along with speaking to members of Congress, it can help to spread the word about legislation you support so that your friends and family can get involved, too. You may also tag your representatives in social media posts about why you want to see the EMPOWER Act on the books.
Getting involved with advocacy organizations championing the proposed law is another option. The National Women’s Law Center, National Partnership of Women & Families, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Feminist Majority Foundation, and more than a dozen other groups that depend on volunteers all have voiced their support for the bill.
All in all, championing a particular piece of legislation often involves making noise about whatever issue is at stake. The representatives who introduced the EMPOWER Act this week believe workplace harassment won't go away for good without Congress taking meaningful steps to eradicate it.
"This takes it from a moment to a movement," Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester said at the press conference in reference to the #MeToo movement. "This takes it from a movement to action."