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Senate Democrats call for hearings on workplace sexual misconduct

Some Senate Democrats are calling for hearings to evaluate sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, as the #MeToo movement brings the discussion to the national forefront.

In a letter sent by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and signed by all Democrats on the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the lawmakers call for the committee “to play a leadership role in tackling the problem of workplace sexual harassment and assault.”

The committee has oversight jurisdiction over the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is tasked with enforcing federal laws written to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

In the letter, the senators asked for the hearings to evaluate whether the EEOC has adequate resources to address the scale of the problem.

“As members of the committee, it is our duty to ensure that workers are protected from sexual assault and harassment in their jobs,” the senators wrote. “The deluge of workers who have come forward to report incidents of workplace sexual harassment and assault in recent months has rightly caused Congress to reexamine existing anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and has forced us to question the efficacy of existing worker protections.”

In recent months, Congress has been re-evaluating its system for reporting sexual harassment and assault on the Hill as dozens of lawmakers, staff, interns and political veterans have reported harassment, assault or cite knowledge of others who have been harassed or assaulted.

The senators say the problem extends well beyond the Capitol.

“A recent report by the EEOC found that ‘anywhere from 25% to 85%” of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace,'” the letter reads. “Women are more likely to experience sexual harassment than men; meanwhile, low-income women and women of color often face unique barriers to sexual harassment reporting and prevention. But despite the pervasiveness of harassment, the committee has yet to hold a hearing on workplace sexual harassment.”

In a statement, the committee’s top Democrat Patty Murray said: “With more and more women coming forward and sharing stories of sexual assault and harassment in workplaces across the country, it is absolutely our committee’s responsibility not only to lift up the voices of these brave survivors, but to do everything we can to make sure that women — and all workers — can do their jobs free from sexual assault and all kinds of harassment. I’m glad so many members of our committee agree, and I have made clear to Chairman (Lamar) Alexander that I hope we can schedule committee hearings on these issues as quickly as possible.”