Howard stands with Davidson on anti-sexual harassment and workplace discrimination bills

HARRISBURG, June 11 – State Rep. Kristine Howard, D-Chester, the first Pennsylvania legislator to call on accused sexual harasser Sen. Daylin Leach to withdraw intimidating lawsuits he filed against three of his accusers, today lent her support to two bills introduced by Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Delaware, which address sexual harassment in the workplace – “#TimesUP - Sexual Harassment by Public Officials” and “Preventing Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace.”

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

The first 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.

“A position of power should not exonerate wrongdoers,” Howard said. “This legislation will prevent the sort of legal extortion carried out by accused abusers like Senator Leach, who I called on back in February to withdraw lawsuits he filed against his less financially well off accusers.”

Davidson’s legislation would help foster an environment within the legislature where victims of harassment and discrimination can come forward without fear of unwarranted retaliation.

“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.”

The second 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.

“Most harassment and discrimination go unreported,” Howard said. “We need to ensure whistleblowers have adequate time to make a potentially life-altering decision to come forward."

In addition to Howard and Davidson, appearing at the news conference in support of the package were state Reps. Joanna McClinton, James Roebuck, Joe Hohenstein, Mary Isaacson, Melissa Shusterman, 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.

Cephas and Rep. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.