S.575: EMPOWER Act-Part 1
The Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace Harassment through Education and Reporting Act is bipartisan legislation that would reduce existing barriers for people who have been harassed in the workplace to report their harassment. The explicit goal of the Act is “to deter, prevent, reduce, and respond to harassment in the workplace, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and harassment based on other protected categories.”
The EMPOWER Act would eliminate nondisparagement and nondisclosure clauses in employment agreements, which create a chilling effect in reporting harassment in the workplace. The legislation would also as remove the ability for employers to enforce nondisparagement and nondisclosure clauses. This would not apply if there was a settlement agreement or separation agreement that mutually benefited both the employer and employee.
Additionally, it would create a confidential tip-line for employees, where they could report the entity, employer, division, or subdivision responsible for the workplace harassment, including sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment. The tip-line would also educate reporting individuals about how to preserve the right to make any reports, complaints, or charges that the individuals would otherwise have been eligible to make, independent of any report to the tip-line.
The EMPOWER Act would also require public companies to report the number of settlements and judgments related to workplace harassment to increase transparency and accountability, and require the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to develop workplace training programs to educate employees about what qualifies as workplace harassment, employee rights, and how to report.
Furthermore, the legislation would prevent companies from receiving a tax deduction for the legal fees associated with harassment settlements. Likewise, it would classify an employee’s settlement as nontaxable income.
- The National Assembly is committed to fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The National Assembly envisions equity as the condition in which differences among people have no influence on how they fare in society.
- Equity is advanced through the implementation of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that prevent differential outcomes based on the differences among people. This requires a continuous reevaluation of norms, and a commitment to eliminating policies, practices, and systems that perpetuate inequity, so that all people are fully welcomed, valued, respected, and heard.
- Equity and inclusion are not possible when workers do not have access to legal avenues that would end their harassment in the workplace, particularly when, on average, one in four women experience sexual harassment in the workplace.
- The National Assembly supports the EMPOWER Act, as it would create a safer and more inclusive work environment for women.