HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Five female members of the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus have unveiled a package of legislation aimed at addressing sexual harassment.
The bills come after State Rep. Mike Zabel resigned amid a sexual harassment allegation in March and Mike Vereb resigned as Governor Josh Shapiro’s Secretary of Legislative Affairs with a $295,000 settlement paid to a woman he allegedly sexually harassed.
On Nov. 15 a Treasury spokesperson confirmed the department received a request for the initial $196,365.51 to be paid as part of the Vereb settlement.
The five lawmakers say the legislative package aims to “make significant reforms to protect taxpayers and victims.”
- Resolution to amend the House Ethical Conduct Rules to add “non-verbal acts” to the definition of sexual harassment, add a prohibition on members accused of sexual harassment from engaging in House-related services or duties, allow a person to appeal their complaint, and increase transparency to the number of complaints filed before the Ethics Committee – introduced by Rep. Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Westmoreland)
- Amend the Right-to-Know Law to redact the name of a sexual harassment or assault victim from a settlement agreement before it’s publicly released – introduced by Rep. Kate Klunk (R-York)
- Amend the PennWATCH Act to include information on each settlement paid to an individual or employee – introduced by Rep. Donna Scheuren (R-Montgomery)
- Create a framework allowing the Commonwealth to seek reimbursement from individuals whose actions result in settlements of judgments paid by the Commonwealth – introduced by Rep. Charity Grimm Krupa (R-Fayette)
- Enshrine federal non-disclosure agreement law into state law, prohibiting the enforcement of pre-employment non-disclosure agreements and non-disparagement agreements, as well as voiding agreements in place prior to a dispute arising – introduced by Rep. Ann Flood (R-Northampton)
On Tuesday State Senators Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), Maria Collett (D-Montgomery), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), and Tracy Pennycuick (R-Berks/Montgomery) announced two bills related to sexual harassment in state government.
The two bills that would require third-party investigations of all sexual harassment claims in the General Assembly and state agencies, as well as require them to self report the total number of monetary settlements with non-disclosure agreements related to actual o threatened lititgatoin against members of employees.
“Those of us who hold public office or work in state government should set the example of workplace safety, respect, and transparency, said the State Senators in a joint memo. “Employees deserve to have a safe place to work and if needed, file complaints to a neutral party if an inappropriate action is taken against them. Subsequently, taxpayers should have confidence that their money is funding the work that needs to be done to keep Pennsylvania operating and competitive. Hiding settlements for sexual misconduct should not be permitted. The only way to address such serious matters is to do it together.”
Governor Shapiro told abc27 in October that “all I can say about the settlement is what’s in the public domain” when asked about the Vereb settlement.
“Certainly if others have ideas about how that can be strengthened across the board – for the legislature and the executive branch – I’d certainly be willing to take a careful look at that,” Shapiro said.