Last week, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 5857, the “Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act.”
The legislation requires passenger vessel operators, passenger airlines, commuter and intercity passenger railroads, transit agencies, and certain types of bus companies to prescribe formal policies on sexual assault and harassment of employees and passengers in transportation.
“The number-one goal in the transportation of people, whether it is across town or across an ocean, must be safety,” DeFazio said in a statement. “Today (May 17), I introduced legislation to require transportation providers to develop formal policies to help prevent sexual assault and harassment in transportation and hold those who perpetrate these egregious acts accountable under all applicable laws. This legislation will help build a safer transportation system for all Americans.”
Last year Americans took 10.1 billion trips on public transportation. According to a 2018 national study, 17% of all respondents experienced sexual harassment while using mass transportation. On U.S. airlines alone, 68% of flight attendants say they have been subjected to sexual harassment during their careers.
The Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act would require transportation providers to adopt a formal policy providing that sexual assault and harassment in transportation is unacceptable under any circumstance. These providers must prominently display, on their websites or otherwise, a statement that they have adopted such a policy as well as the procedures their passengers can follow for reporting incidents of sexual assault and harassment. The policy must facilitate the reporting of these incidents, establish procedures for employees to follow if such an incident is reported, and require all appropriate employees to be trained on the policy.
In addition, the bill increases the current civil penalty for interference with crewmembers in commercial aviation from $25,000 to $35,000 and creates a similar civil penalty to protect employees working in other modes of transportation. Finally, the bill requires the Transportation Department to collect data annually on incidents of sexual assault and harassment and make this data publicly available.
Groups supporting H.R. 5857 include the Transportation Trades Department, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Full bill text can be found here.