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Congress mulling over reform in wake of #MeToo movement

Residents of California may be interested to learn that, in the wake of the ongoing public backlash against sexual harassment, Congress is considering changes in the Congressional Accountability Act. As its name implies, under this law Congressional leaders must follow the federal laws that they are charged with making on behalf of the general public. Among other things, this Act covers the process by which complaints alleging sexual harassment by members of Congress get handled.

The House of Representatives passed reforms in February to this system that in times past has been cloaked in considerable secrecy. However, efforts to pass this measure in the Senate have stalled. This is despite the fact that many members of the Senate, including all 22 female Senators, have demanded action on this important point.

Reportedly, the sticking point in negotiations revolves around the proposed change that would require members of Congress who chose to settle a sexual harassment claim to pay for that settlement out of their own funds. Currently, at least in some situations, a member of Congress accused of harassment may be able to get a settlement payment covered at the taxpayer's expense.

The people of Los Angeles should keep a close eye on this legislation as it makes its way through Congress. In the meantime, though, it is important to remember that even California's most powerful citizens ultimately have to follow the laws of this state and the federal government when it comes to sexual harassment. Those who feel they have been victimized by members of the upper crust in this state can and are encouraged to evaluate their legal options.

Source: CNN, "Senate effort to pass sexual harassment overhaul gets new push," Sunlen Serfaty, May 8, 2018.

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