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Lawmakers introduce bill to reform sexual harassment claims in Congress

[JURIST] Members of Congress introduced legislation [materials] Thursday that would prohibit lawmakers from paying settlements in sexual harassment claims with taxpayers' money.

The bill, called the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, would require the accused lawmaker to reimburse the US Treasury within 90 days of settlement. If they do not, their wages would be garnished. The bill would also create a legal office to represent complaints for members of Congress in these matters.

The bill would overhaul the complaint process for the lawmaker and the victim. It would allow the lawmaker to keep their job while the process proceeds by requiring them to work remotely or take paid leave. It would also remove the requirement that the victim sign a nondisclosure agreement in order to file a complaint.

The bill further places both parties on equal footing through-out the process by requiring any confidentiality agreement be agreed on by both parties and removes the counseling and mediation stages that were in place before.

This is the first amendment to the law since it was first passed in 1995 and comes after three months of bipartisan negotiation and cooperation. The bill was introduced to the House and referred to the Committee on house Administration and the Committees on Ethics, Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means. The bill does not yet have a date on the committee calendar.

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