February 26, 2021

Democrats introduce legislation to strengthen anti-sexual harassment protocols at State Department | National News

Three Home Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday launched laws geared toward strengthening anti-harassment, assault and retaliation insurance policies on the US State Division.

Reps. Joaquin Castro, Jackie Speier and Eliot Engel unveiled the State Harassment and Assault Prevention and Eradication (SHAPE) Act of 2020 to “facilitate stronger anti-harassment and discrimination insurance policies, survivor care, and accountability on the State Division.”

The laws comes practically three years after greater than 200 ladies who work on nationwide safety points raised the alarm about sexual harassment and assault of their subject and months after an April US Fee on Civil Rights report beneficial the State Division institute a lot of adjustments to its sexual harassment protocols.

The SHAPE Act would require the division “to develop a complete coverage on the prevention of and response to harassment, discrimination, sexual assault, and associated retaliation,” set up an “Workplace of Worker Advocacy” to help victims and supply a 24/7 hotline, and require each semiannual surveys of the division’s office tradition and an annual report back to Congress “on claims and disciplinary motion taken to carry perpetrators accountable, in addition to local weather survey outcomes.”

It additionally requires the State Division to implement “standardized sexual assault protocols,” which embody entry to skilled sufferer advocate, coaching for regional safety officers in sexual assault investigative strategies, and the requirement anybody alleging misconduct has entry to alternate work assignments or paid depart.

As well as, the act “outlaws compelled nondisclosure or non-disparagement agreements in employment contracts and settlement or separation agreements.”

A State Division spokesperson declined to touch upon the laws, however stated the division takes “any and all allegations of discrimination or harassment extraordinarily critically.” They famous the division has inside anti-harassment insurance policies and famous these “who really feel that they’re the sufferer of discrimination or harassment might select to file an Equal Employment Alternative (EEO) criticism by the Division’s Workplace of Civil Rights.”

“Any act of harassment violates our primary values of respect for the person and won’t be tolerated. Acts of harassment not solely erode the ethical integrity of the Division, however threaten our mission of selling and demonstrating our democratic values to advance a free, peaceable, and affluent world,” the spokesperson stated in a press release to CNN.

‘We, too, are survivors’

In November 2017, 223 ladies signed an open letter entitled #metoonatsec, writing, “We, too, are survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse or know others who’re.”

They wrote that many ladies had been held again or pushed out of the nationwide safety subject by “males who use their energy to assault at one finish of the spectrum and perpetuate — generally unconsciously — environments that silence,demean, belittle or neglect ladies on the different.”

“Assault is the development of the identical behaviors that allow us to be denigrated, interrupted, shut out, and shut up. These behaviors incubate a permissive setting the place sexual harassment and assault take maintain,” they wrote. “And it is time to make it cease.”

The letter known as on nationwide safety companies, assume tanks, universities, and the contractors who help them “to take a complete set of actions to scale back the incidence of sexual harassment and abuse within the office.”

Speier, a California Democrat who’s co-chair of the Democratic Girls’s Caucus, stated in a press release to CNN that they’re “dedicated to making sure that this viral on-line second, launched by 223 courageous ladies who stepped ahead to share their painful experiences figuring out the grave threat it posed to their careers, turns into an enduring motion for lengthy overdue change.”

“Many of those men and women are serving in warzones or equally harmful territories. They accomplish that for lengthy stretches of time with out entry to their family members. It is our obligation to make sure that the one enemies they should fear about are exterior their ranks,” she stated.

Engel, the Home Overseas Affairs Committee chairman, stated the invoice “would convey needed adjustments, requiring the State Division to put money into preventative coaching and supply sources to victims.”

“It will additionally make sure the Division is upholding its duty to guard our public servants, together with many ladies who for years have confronted not solely harassment and discrimination, but in addition cultural and institutional failure inside nationwide safety companies which are unwilling to guard them,” the New York Democrat stated.

Castro, a Texas Democrat who’s vice chair of the Overseas Affairs Committee, stated that the “international #metoo motion has shone a highlight on these systemic failures, together with on the US State Division, and it is gone time to take motion with actual reforms.”

He famous that “the distant nature of a diplomat’s work additionally makes them extra weak and too usually their complaints of sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination aren’t adequately addressed, and victims lack help.”

Worry of retaliation

An April 2020 US Fee on Civil Rights report, which examined efforts to deal with office sexual harassment throughout the federal authorities and in addition particularly evaluated NASA and the State Division, discovered this to be the case.

It discovered a lot of shortcomings within the State Division’s current protocols.

“A mix of advanced processes, insufficient accountability at senior ranges, and an absence of coaching and different points on the State Division permit repeat offenders to proceed to abuse,” it stated. “Many ladies on the State Division worry that they may endure retaliation if they arrive ahead to report harassment.”

“It is necessary that State Division management, together with the Secretary, direct and make sure that the tradition of State workplaces globally is to have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, significant entry to truthful processes the place claims are asserted, and no tolerance for retaliation,” the report beneficial.

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