Be HEARD bill introduced in Congress

Residents in Massachusetts and around the country have been keenly aware of the continuing problem the nation is facing when it comes to sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace. Despite continuing progress in some areas, women and even some men still experience discrimination or harassing behavior. The Me Too movement has brought this topic to the forefront of the national conversation. Now, several senators and congressional representatives are taking action.

A new bill has been introduced into Congress designed to take major steps forward in the effort to extinguish sexual harassment. The bill is called Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination. Essential elements in the Be HEARD act target anti-retaliation laws and rules and the method by which sexual misconduct allegations and cases are reported and handled. The bill also aims to eliminate the low minimum wage cap for employees who work in service jobs where they also receive tips, called the tipped minimum wage.

Be HEARD aims to prevent employers from having workers sign agreements before they begin employment stipulating that they will bound to arbitration as their only means of determining the outcome of a sexual harassment case. Pre-employment confidentiality agreements would also be eliminated and banned, allowing victims to talk publicly about their cases should they so desire.

Another aspect of Be HEARD is the requirement that employers report all instances of sexual harassment, providing greater transparency about the prevalence of this problem. Both senators and two representatives from Massachusetts are among the legislators sponsoring this bill.

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