HARRISBURG – Working to protect potential victims and ensure Pennsylvania has the most effective laws to address sexual and workplace-related harassment, members of the House Republican leadership team – Reps. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery) and Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) – along with victim advocate Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) and House Labor and Industry chairman Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin) today unveiled new legislation to further safeguard employees.
“Workplace harassment and misconduct are wrong and must be stopped because no one should ever be uncomfortable going to work,” said Toepel, caucus chairman. “We are going to look at any deficiencies in our current laws and work together on solutions. We need to look at this in a comprehensive manner and get this right.”
Legislators are prioritizing potential victims, emphasizing that anyone facing harassment and/or misconduct must have suitable outlets to be heard and with timely action taken. They fear unintended consequences could otherwise arise from hastily passed proposals. To achieve this, they are insisting on a thorough review of laws, protocols and procedures already in place to help determine any appropriate, follow-up action, policy or change.
“Sexual and workplace-related harassment are serious issues that deserve thoughtful, deliberate action,” said Oberlander, caucus secretary. “As a legislative body, we are strengthening our own policies as well as public policy.”
The legislators pointed to an array of federal, state and local laws in place that already prohibit harassment and sexual misconduct at work. Two measures to improve these policies, sponsored by Oberlander, Toepel and Delozier, were unveiled today.
The proposals would:
• Create a task force to investigate the laws, practices and procedures surrounding harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace. This comprehensive review would reveal any inadequacies in current laws, regulations and policies surrounding this subject and produce a report to the General Assembly with its findings and recommendations. This task force – which would consist of attorneys, human resources professionals, employers, state agencies and victims’ service organizations – could provide legislators with a blueprint for potential legislation. It is largely based on the resolution that created the very successful Child Protection Task Force established in 2011 following the Pennsylvania child abuse scandals.
• Review anti-harassment and discrimination laws and policies affecting Commonwealth employees. The Joint State Government Commission would be tasked with reviewing the number, types and results of workplace complaints in state government agencies and entities and provide a comparison of workplace policies related to harassment and sexual misconduct.
“By using the special task force approach that strengthened Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws and made them a national model, experts can review current laws and issue effective recommendations for improvement,” Delozier said. “Coupled with the study of current state policies and incidents, we will be able to ensure everyone is better protected at work.”
To begin that process, Kauffman announced that the House Labor and Industry Committee will hold a fact-finding hearing on April 24.
“With a number of laws already on the books, our hearing will take a look at those laws and best practices within the public and private sectors, and the scope of any weaknesses within any current state law,” Kauffman. “We want to make sure that all good ideas are heard and that other well-intentioned proposals do not lead to any negative consequences.”
The legislation has been introduced as House Resolution 828
and House Resolution 829
Representative Marcy Toepel
Representative Donna Oberlander
Representative Sheryl Delozier
Media Contact: Stephen Miskin
717-772-9943 (office) 717-756-3936 (cell)