WASHINGTON – Congress approved an overhaul Thursday of its process for handling sexual harassment claims, capping a tumultuous year that saw more than a half-dozen lawmakers resign amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
The bill that passed both chambers holds lawmakers, including those who leave office, financially liable for settlements resulting from harassment and retaliation, but doesn’t cover discrimination cases. It also eliminates mandatory counseling and mediation for victims, and gets rid of a “cooling off” period that they are now required to observe before filing a lawsuit or requesting an administrative hearing.
The legislation now heads to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.
The bill allows staffers access to a confidential adviser who is an attorney and able to offer legal advice and guidance, but not representation. The bill also requires public reporting of settlements, including identifying lawmakers who are personally liable, and extends protections to include interns, fellows and other staff.
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