WASHINGTON (ABC4 Utah) – Congressman Chris Stewart, R- Utah introduced a bill Wednesday that would do away with nondisclosure agreements required in taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements.
Through the Office of Compliance, victims of sex harassment on Capitol Hill are required to sign nondisclosure agreements if their cases are settled. The Utah Republican’s Victims’ Voice and Transparency Act would remove that provision, which is part of a law enacted in 1995 protecting representatives from being publicly named in settled sexual harassment suits. That law is called the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.
The purpose of Stewart’s proposed legislation is to give victims the option of naming their abuser, especially if he or she holds public office.
“If someone treated my daughter that way, I would get up in their face,” said Rep. Stewart in a conversation with ABC4 Utah’s Andrew Reeser Thursday. Stewart said there is too much of a “culture of silence” in Washington in regards to unwanted sexual advances or conversations. In a tweet Nov. 21, he said “the American people deserve the utmost level of transparency,” in regards to this issue.
The bill comes just as sexual assault and harassment accusations have ended the prominent careers of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey, including many others. The national conversation about sexual harassment inspired Stewart’s bill, he said.
Stewart said he’s confident the bill will move quickly and will be successfully adopted.
Stewart has publicly denounced Pres. Trump’s alleged lewd comments released in Access Hollywood tapes just before the Nov. 2016 elections. Asked if Trump should be more deeply investigated, Stewart said if there are more accusations against him, they should be “taken seriously.”
“It’s not masculine to abuse someone, there is no masculinity in that,” Stewart said. “There is just no way in the world that I,as a father, would allow that to happen to one of my daughters. Why would I allow that to happen in some other office by someone else? We need to be protective…not just kind of hush it away.”