Davidson and fellow legislators propose anti-sexual harassment and workplace discrimination package

HARRISBURG, June 10 – State Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Delaware, today led a news conference regarding the introduction of her two bills addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, “Preventing Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace” and “#TimesUP - Sexual Harassment by Public Officials.”

These bills together carry a bipartisan group of over 50 co-sponsors.

The first bill would extend the amount of time a person has to file discrimination complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in order to give victims and whistleblowers more time to come forward.

“The majority of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace goes unreported,” Davidson said.  “Potential whistleblowers may fear the threat of retaliation or be uncertain whether the incident qualifies as harassment or discrimination. Often, it takes time for whistleblowers to build up the courage to come forward, but it is vitally important to the safety and productivity of our workplaces that they do so.”  

The second bill would expand the duties of the State Ethics Commission, an independent state agency, to include investigating sexual harassment claims against officials and public employees at all levels of government in Pennsylvania.

“For those who commit sexual harassment, we say, ‘Time’s Up,’” Davidson said. “Victims of sexual harassment involving people in positions of power must have the assurance that their complaints will be investigated by bipartisan, independent bodies rather than negotiated in secret.

“With these legislative proposals, we hope to establish clear procedures for reporting sexual harassment and discrimination by elected officials or public employees in order to ensure those found guilty of the behavior are punished appropriately.”

Appearing at the news conference in support of the package were state Reps. Joanna McClinton, James Roebuck, Joe Hohenstein, Mary Isaacson, Melissa Shusterman, Kristine Howard, Dan Williams, Mary Jo Daley, Tina Davis, Maureen Madden, Morgan Cephas, Carol Hill-Evans, Christopher Rabb and Isabella Fitzgerald.

Fellow state representatives also presented their own bills on sexual harassment.

Reps. Morgan Cephas and Kate Klunk -- “Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act” (HB 849) would ban the requirement of nondisclosure agreements related to sexual harassment as a condition of getting a job but would not prevent such an agreement if it was agreed to by both parties.

Rep. Carol Hill-Evans -- “The Committee on Campus Violence in Higher Education Act” (not yet introduced) would authorize the creation of a committee to work with institutions of higher education on issues related to campus violence.

Rep. Maureen Madden -- “Protecting Workers from Discrimination and Harassment” (HB 1025), would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to ensure that all employees have the same workplace protections, regardless of the size of their employer or the type of work they perform.

Rep. Christopher Rabb -- “Training for Employees and Supervisors on Discrimination and Harassment” (HB 1040), would amend the Human Relations Act to require employers to conduct annual interactive discrimination and harassment training for all employees, interns, and volunteers at little to no cost to employers. In addition, the bill would require additional interactive training for supervisors and managers in the prevention of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Rep. Melissa Shusterman -- “Employment Fair Practices and Discrimination Notices” (HB 392), would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to require employers to update Employment Fair Practices notices to include descriptions and examples of unlawful discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and retaliation. By highlighting employees’ rights and outlining what behaviors are unacceptable, workers would be able to more easily identify and report harassment and discrimination on the job.

Davidson currently serves as chair for the Democratic Women’s Caucus, which recently announced a joint effort by members of both the House and Senate to introduce and support legislation that would protect women and all victims of harassment and abuse.

Margo L. Davidson is a trailblazing leader in Delaware county and in Harrisburg. She is the first African American woman to chair the Southeastern PA Democratic Delegation in the House of Representatives. The first Democrat, the first African American and the first woman to represent the 164th Legislative District. The first woman ever elected from Delaware County in the history of the commonwealth. Margo is known for her commitment to social and economic justice issues. She credits her personal success and legislative commitment to helping the underdog to her experiences of being raised by a single mother in Philadelphia who taught her the importance of ignoring the naysayers, valuing hard work and giving back to her community. Margo was first elected to the House of Representatives in November 2010.