A new bill introduced on Tuesday, if passed, could radically change the way people can access and evaluate public companies' record of workplace harassment. Introduced by Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the "Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act" would require public corporations to detail any harassment allegations and settlements within their ranks.
While speaking of the bill, Rep. Rosen tells Bustle:
The #MeToo movement has helped shed light on the once-invisible struggles of countless women who have dealt with sexual misconduct in the workplace. For too long, we've seen those who have had the courage to speak out against their abusers lose their jobs and even their careers just for sharing their story.
Rosen also says that she's committed to addressing the "culture of abuse by those in power" not only in her state, but across the United States. She added, "We are hoping to garner Republican support for the bill, and we have not yet seen any public pushback."
The bill is the latest development in the nexus of politics, law, and the #MeToo movement that sheds light on sexual misconduct in industries across the United States, including politics. If the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act becomes law, public companies would be required to openly share relevant data on allegations and settlements regarding issues like sexual abuse in the workplace or discrimination against race, age, sexual orientation, or against people with disabilities.
The bill would also require public companies to disclose just how much it paid in settlements, though it won't mandate that the company disclose any specific names involved. Rep. Rosen told BuzzFeed News, "What the #MeToo movement has taught us is that we're not going to change the culture where this misconduct is brushed aside or openly tolerated in workplaces across America without more transparency on how these issues are being handled."
Sen. Warren also tweeted about the bill on Tuesday. "To end sexual harassment & discrimination in the workplace, we need to hold companies accountable," the tweet read. "I introduced a bill w/@RepJackyRosen to force public companies to disclose their sexual harassment settlements. Investors – and employees – deserve to know."
According to BuzzFeed News, the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act would require public companies to — among other things — report on the "average length of time" it took for a complaint against alleged sexual or racial harassment to get resolved. Investors seeking to potentially pour finances into a company will have the opportunity to look at its record of harassment complaints and any settlements through the publicly-available data.
Additionally, companies would be required to report their record on an annual basis and also give "description of the measures taken" to address workplace harassment and discrimination. Through such public data, key investors and other figures will have the chance to see whether or not the company in question fosters the type of environment they would like to be part of. For women, such data could prove critical in finding healthy professional environments that aren't riddled with sexual misconduct.
At this moment, however, the future of the bill is uncertain. BuzzFeed News reported that although the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act has received Democratic support through the likes of Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Richard Blumenthal, Ed Markey, and others, Republican support for the bill isn't high at the moment. Rosen told BuzzFeed News that she hopes that they will join Democrats in supporting the bill.
"I've spoken to some of my Republican colleagues about this legislation, and several have expressed interest in learning more about the bill. It's my hope that we can bring Republicans on board in the House and Senate to move this plan forward," she said.