Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) along with Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), Tracy Pennycuick (R-Berks/ Montgomery), and Maria Collett (D-Montgomery), today issued a co-sponsorship memo announcing the Senate’s intent to advance a bipartisan legislative package consisting of two bills to increase measures when addressing matters of sexual harassment in the workplace.
“As leaders, we need to set the standard to create a safe workplace environment for all in practice and law when it comes to instances of sexual harassment. The recent sexual harassment incidents in the Capitol have presented us with a learning opportunity that we can and should do better,” said Ward. “Sexual harassment is not a political issue. It is a human issue. While we can’t eradicate all instances, we can do our best to address these matters swiftly and ensure transparency in how taxpayer funds are disbursed.”
The first bill co-sponsored by Ward and Collett would require state agencies and the General Assembly to use a third-party to investigate all sexual harassment claims submitted by an employee.
“There can be no tolerance for sexual harassment in any workplace, especially one that serves the people of our Commonwealth,” said Collett. “Our government agencies and public servants should be held to the highest standards, and when misconduct occurs, there must be a clear path to accountability and justice. This package of bills will do just that by helping to strengthen workplace protections and improve transparency.”
The second bill, sponsored by Phillips-Hill and Pennycuick, would require public posting of monetary nondisclosure agreements due to sexual harassment or misconduct claim by an employee in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
“The Senate is leading on the issue to fill two critical voids: protect victims of sexual harassment and provide transparency when hard-earned tax dollars are used in a settlement,” Phillips-Hill said. “Our goal is to leave this state government a better place than we found it, and these bills will provide a better place to work and keep taxpayers better informed of how their money is used in Harrisburg.”
Both laws, if enacted, would apply to state government employees including all agencies, the Governor’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of the Auditor General, the Treasury Department, the General Assembly and the Judicial branch.
“Recent events have cast a spotlight on the inadequacies of the current process surrounding state government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations,” Pennycuick said. “I find it very disturbing that taxpayers are left in the dark when their dollars are used in these settlements with little to no public transparency or accountability. It is time to bring these practices to an end. By instituting these commonsense reforms, we can shine a light on this opaque process and ensure that taxpayers are respected, and victims are protected.
The bills will be sent to committee soon.