WASHINGTON – Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who recently introduced legislation dealing with sexual harassment in the private sector, said Congress should ban taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements for lawmakers.
Maloney was asked if she would support prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to pay for sexual harassment settlements on Capitol Hill. Maloney said she personally thinks taxpayer funds should not subsidize settlements in the public or private sector.
“There is, quite frankly, a disagreement among many members of Congress on how to move forward on various things. I personally do not think any taxpayer money should ever be paid for any settlement. Some people feel if someone has been wronged they should get a settlement, but I feel the most important thing we should focus on is getting a safe work environment for young men and young women and anyone who is in a workplace to know that they are going to be protected in that workplace,” Maloney said during a press conference on Capitol Hill when announcing two new bills addressing the issue of sexual harassment.
“I personally do not support using taxpayer money for any type of settlement. You’ve got to understand Congress is a small part of it – it’s just 435 members and 100 senators, so we’re a small part of the public. What our bills are going after is the private sector,” she added.
Maloney has introduced the No Tax Deductions for Sexual Harasser Buyouts Act, which creates a “tax deductibility exemption for buyouts paid by companies to sexual harassers,” according to her office. Maloney cited the payment television host Bill O’Reilly received when he left Fox News amid sexual misconduct allegations. The congresswoman said Republicans were “smart” for not allowing a tax deduction for settlements subject to non-disclosure agreements.
“I don’t like the tax bill, but they were smart to put this in that,” she said.
However, Maloney said companies could still deduct buyouts of employees like O’Reilly unless her legislation is passed and signed into law.
“This bill would no longer have taxpayers subsidizing payments to sexual harassers in companies who should not be able to use these buyouts as a way to lower their taxes,” she said.
The congresswoman also introduced the Ending Secrecy About Workplace Sexual Harassment Act, which would require businesses to report “the number of settlements with employees regarding claims of discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment and sexual assault” on their Employer Information Report (EEO-1 form) for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Maloney told PJM that there are no privacy issues surrounding the creation of a new reporting requirement about sexual harassment settlements in the private sector.
“With the legislation, the privacy is maintained so that the victim and the assailant’s names are not revealed. It’s the stat. They now have to reveal the number of private claims they are doing, and some of my friends in the private sector tell me the number of private claims are far higher than the public claims – and we know that also from stories. Personally, I was surprised of the stories on Mr. Weinstein; that it had gone on for 40 years but they had done all these private settlements and no one knew about it. At least I didn’t know about it,” Maloney said.
“It would make these private settlements public. I think it’s important and I believe it will bring an incentive on the companies to treat sexual harassment like the crime it is. Too often it was sort of a wink and a nod and ignored and no one did anything about it, and if women complained they were fired or they were attacked personally,” she added.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the bills, said congressional offices should be required to disclose the sexual harassment cases that occur each year.
“The public deserves transparency,” he said at the press conference.
Maloney predicted that Republican leadership in Congress would be receptive to supporting her bills and putting them up for a vote.
“I think they will because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.