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Senate Committee Addresses Sexual Harassment, Assault at NOAA

On November 18, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved, by voice vote, S. 2206, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), the measure would require the secretary of the Department of Commerce to develop comprehensive policies to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment and assault involving employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commissioned officer corps of NOAA, and individuals who conduct business on behalf of NOAA.

Specifically, the policies would promote awareness, outline clear procedures to follow in cases of harassment or assault, and establish mechanisms by which employees can report incidents, ask questions, and receive answers confidentially. Additionally, the bill would prohibit retaliation against employees for filing complaints and would require the secretary to establish consequences for such retaliation.

Among other provisions, the bill also would require the secretary to create a victim advocate program that would support victims of sexual assault, assist victims in navigating “investigative, medical, mental and emotional health, and recovery processes,” and help identify resources to ensure victims’ safety. A 24-hour hotline would be established so that victims could contact advocates.

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