04.10.18

Murray Urges Republican Senate Leaders to Take Action to Address Workplace Sexual Harassment at Hearing for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Nominee

Additionally, Senator Murray urged Chairman Alexander to hold a hearing on workplace harassment, more than 10 weeks after Democratic members of the Committee requested hearing

 

Senate HELP Committee has not held a hearing on workplace sexual harassment in almost 40 years

 

Murray: “It’s been really unfortunate to see a lack of urgency or action from Republican leaders here in Congress” on sexual harassment

 

As President Trump continues to roll back protections for workers and discriminate against large swaths of the population, Murray questioned Sharon Fast Gustafson, nominee for EEOC General Counsel, on whether she will commit to protecting all workers against any type of discrimination

 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee today delivered the following opening statement at the nomination for Sharon Fast Gustafson as the General Counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In light of the Trump Administration’s actions to roll back protections for workers, and President Trump’s discrimination against a large swath of the population, Senator Murray highlighted the need for an independent EEOC committed to protecting workers from any type of discrimination in the workplace.

 

Additionally, Senator Murray highlighted the need for the U.S. Senate, and the HELP Committee specifically, to address the scourge of sexual harassment in the workplace. Senator Murray urged Chairman Alexander to respond to a January 18, 2018 letter from the Democratic members of the HELP Committee, in which Democrats asked Chairman Alexander and Senator Murray to hold a hearing on workplace harassment. Murray noted:

 

“The Democratic members of this Committee sent us a letter more than 10 weeks ago requesting a hearing on workplace sexual harassment, but members of this Committee have yet to hear from you on when we will be able to hear from women and men—and how harassment has impacted their lives at their jobs and beyond. It’s been almost four decades since this Committee held a hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace, and I think scheduling this hearing will make it clear this is an issue this Committee takes seriously and is focused on.”

 

Key excerpts of Ranking Member Murray’s opening statement:

 

“Women in industries outside the spotlight—women who work in low-wage industries, including food service, hospitality, farm work, and retail—still do not have a voice in this conversation. Far too many women who come forward are still not believed—and serial offenders are still being given the benefit of the doubt—no matter how many women come forward, including our own President. Moving forward, we should be working to prevent sexual harassment across the country—not just punishing those with years-long records of abuse.”

 

“Now I’m proud that the female Senators on both sides of the aisle are taking this issue seriously. There have been a number of steps taken, and bills introduced, to combat and prevent sexual harassment, both here in Congress, and in workplaces across the country. However, it’s been really unfortunate to see a lack of urgency or action from Republican leaders here in Congress. Leader McConnell has yet to allow a vote on legislation to reform how sexual harassment claims are handled here in Congress.”

 

“It is the role of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to protect workers from this type of discrimination in the workplace. Given the President’s own views on almost anyone who is different than him—it is critical the EEOC remains independent and that those appointed to the commission make it clear they don’t share President Trump’s views on race, civil rights, women, people with disabilities, or the LGBTQ community. Mrs. Gustafson—you mention in your testimony that you have represented diverse clients, but I want to express how deeply concerned I am about how your decision-making as the top lawyer for the Commission could impact members of the LGBTQ community.”

 

Full text of Ranking Member Murray’s opening statement:

 

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander.

 

“And thank you Mrs. Gustafson for being here and your willingness to serve your country in such a critical role.

 

“Before we dig into your experience and the role of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, I’d like to begin with a topic at the forefront of our national conversation.

 

“Sexual harassment and assault in the workplace are nothing new…

 

“They are pervasive, systemic, and ongoing in almost every workplace in the country.

 

“But for the first time in decades, women and men are coming forward and sharing their stories of harassment and assault.

 

“Finally, these women and men are beginning to be listened to and believed.

 

“And finally, many of these predators, who took advantage of their positions of power, are being held accountable for their actions.

 

“These are important first steps, but our work is nowhere near done.

 

“Women in industries outside the spotlight...

 

“Women who work in low-wage industries, including food service, hospitality, farm work, and retail—still do not have a voice in this conversation.

 

“Far too many women who come forward are still not believed—and serial offenders are still being given the benefit of the doubt—no matter how many women come forward, including our own President.

 

“Moving forward, we should be working to prevent sexual harassment across the country…

 

“Not just punishing those with years-long records of abuse.

 

“Now I’m proud that the female Senators on both sides of the aisle are taking this issue seriously…

 

“There have been a number of steps taken, and bills introduced, to combat and prevent sexual harassment, both here in Congress, and in workplaces across the country.

 

“However—it’s been really unfortunate to see a lack of urgency or action from Republican leaders here in Congress.

 

“Leader McConnell has yet to allow a vote on legislation to reform how sexual harassment claims are handled here in Congress…

 

“And Chairman Alexander, as you know—the Democratic members of this Committee sent us a letter more than 10 weeks ago requesting a hearing on workplace sexual harassment…

 

“But members of this Committee have yet to hear from you on when we will be able to hear from women and men—and how harassment has impacted their lives at their jobs and beyond.

 

“It’s been almost four decades since this Committee held a hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace…

 

“And I think scheduling this hearing will make it clear this is an issue this Committee takes seriously and is focused on.

 

“So I hope you will work with us and get this hearing scheduled soon.

 

“Now—Mrs. Gustafson…

 

“From day one—President Trump has rolled back worker protections and made it easier for corporations to take advantage of—and discriminate against—their workers.

 

“He also made disparaging comments about—and discriminated against—immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, women, transgender individuals, people with disabilities, and more.

 

“It is the role of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to protect workers from this type of discrimination in the workplace.

 

“Given the President’s own views on almost anyone who is different than him—it is critical the EEOC remains independent and that those appointed to the commission make it clear they don’t share President Trump’s views on race, civil rights, women, people with disabilities, or the LGBTQ community.

 

“Mrs. Gustafson—you mention in your testimony that you have represented diverse clients…

 

“But I want to express how deeply concerned I am about how your decision-making as the top lawyer for the Commission could impact members of the LGBTQ community.

 

“You are a member of multiple organizations that believe that it is appropriate to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

“So I am very concerned that you will not be willing to vigorously bring suits to keep workplaces free of discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.

 

“And, I am very concerned you won’t forcefully defend the rights of LGBTQ employees and others when business owners try to use their personal religious beliefs as an excuse to disregard their employee’s civil rights.

 

“Additionally—you have extreme views on women’s constitutionally protected right to reproductive health services, so I hope to hear from you today that you will not let those personal views cloud your judgment at the EEOC.

 

“I know that you have devoted your career to representing people who have been the victims of discrimination on the basis of sex, race and disability—and that you have helped to break new ground in protecting pregnant workers from discrimination. 

 

“But you have also spent your career as the sole lawyer in your practice—I am concerned with your lack of management experience, as you will be responsible for managing, coordinating, and directing hundreds of experienced lawyers in 15 regional offices.

 

“So I hope in your testimony—and in response to my questions—you are able to address these issues thoroughly.

 

“Workers should be able to do their jobs without fear of discrimination—and the fact that the Trump Administration won’t stand up for workers makes it even more critical that our nation’s civil rights enforcement agency dedicated to equal employment opportunity is strong, independent, and effective. 

 

“Thank you.” 

 

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