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U.S. Rep. Underwood works to protect congressional staffers from abuse

Congresswoman aims to protect congressional staffers from abuse

Lauren Underwood, then a candidate for Illinois' House District 14, speaks during a Sep. 19 editorial board meeting at the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake. Underwood was sworn into Congress on Thursday.
Lauren Underwood, then a candidate for Illinois' House District 14, speaks during a Sep. 19 editorial board meeting at the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake. Underwood was sworn into Congress on Thursday.

Just hours after being sworn into Congress, Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, is claiming victory for a rules package that aims to protect staffers from sexual harassment and retaliation.

The House passed the Opening Day Rules Package for the 116th Congress on Thursday, and it includes two provisions authored by Underwood that build on the 2018 update to the Congressional Accountability Act. It applies to members of the House.

These provisions prohibit sexual relationships between members of Congress and their committee staff, and will prohibit the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence sexual assault survivors and witnesses.

“It is a new day in the House of Representatives,” Underwood said in a statement. “In the Democratic majority, when the American people have elected the most diverse Congress with more women serving than ever before, we are demonstrating a commitment to conducting the business of our nation with the highest standards of ethics and decency. My contributions to this legislation will prevent abuse, harassment, intimidation, threats and discrimination that would be illegal in other workplaces.”

Underwood said nondisclosure agreements have been used to unfairly silence victims of sexual harassment and assault.

“ ‘Time’s Up’ has come to the halls of Congress,” said Underwood, the youngest black woman ever elected to Congress.

The 32-year-old represents Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. She beat Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, during the midterm election in November.

“[Underwood’s] leadership made this important change possible. Our rules package is stronger for it. We are moving to clean up Washington on Day One so the American people can have faith in this institution again,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., in a statement.  

House Resolution 724 banned sexual relationships between members and staff under their supervision. This rules package extends the ban to relationships between committee staffers and any member who serves on their committee of employment.

Underwood said no employee “should fear discrimination or harassment in the workplace” and thanked McGovern “for including these robust protections in the rules changes for the 116th Congress.”

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