Women Delco state reps lead push against sex harassment

Delaware County Daily Times
December 14, 2017
by Rick Kauffman

Two women legislators from Delaware County are introducing bills in Harrisburg that would give women in the workplace a greater defense from sexual harassment by their equals and superiors, from local businesses to the House chambers and state Capitol.

This week, women of the Pennsylvania House and Senate joined in announcing bills that would update protections for victims of sexual assault and would better hold the accused accountable.

Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164 of Upper Darby, Rep. Maureen Madden, D-115 of Monroe County, and Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-95 of York County, introduced a package of sexual harassment bills that would require better workplace training and extend protections to employees of small businesses; create a task force to examine sexual assault on college campuses; and prohibit non-disclosure agreements for sexual assault claims.

Krueger-Braneky introduced the #MeToo Pa. General Assembly (Member and Employee Training and Oversight on PA General Assembly) Act, which would ban non-disclosure agreements and prohibit lawmakers from using taxpayer funds for accuser settlements.

Krueger-Braneky said she was inspired by the women of the #MeToo movement, who empowered others to reveal tales of sexual harassment they kept secret out of shame, societal stigmas and an inability to properly hold accountable men in positions of power. Posting on her Facebook, Krueger-Braneky told the story of a college professor who made unwanted advances when she was a freshman.

“It’s important for women in leadership roles to share their experiences,” she said.

Afterward her post, Krueger-Braneky said women in the state Capitol – lawmakers, staff, lobbyists – came to her with similar tales of harassment by men in the Legislature.

When she saw the story of Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams using $30,000 in taxpayer money to settle a claim of sexual misconduct, she said it was time for a change.

“It’s absolutely wrong and unfair,” Krueger-Braneky said.

Currently, the Democratic and Republican caucuses in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate all do their own independent review of workplace grievances that are filed.

“Each caucus has its own policies. There’s very little transparency, not one overarching process,” Krueger-Braneky said.

Krueger-Braneky said the #MeToo Bill – H.B. 1965 – was modeled after this federal legislation. She set a goal to establish an office that would be responsible for all complaints of ethics violations against members.

Currently the bill has more than 50 bipartisan cosponsors.

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