As revelations of sexual misconduct continue to dominate headlines, Kathy Castor is seeking a way for those who have been harassed to know their rights.
On Tuesday, the Tampa U.S. Rep. is hosting a community forum with a panel of experts to discuss resources for preventing and reporting sexual harassment. The event is between 10 a.m. and noon at the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry campus’ Student Services Building, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd.
A featured guest on the program will be Tanja Vidovic, a former Tampa firefighter who was awarded $245,000 in damages by a federal jury in December after suing the city, claiming she was the victim of repeated discrimination and harassment during seven and a half years with the fire department.
Also part of the forum will be representatives from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Centre for Women, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) labor law.
In November, Castor introduced legislation to end taxpayer-funded awards and settlements for workplace discrimination in Congress, including sexual harassment. That provision was included in the “Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act,” a bill the House passed last week in direct response to reports and allegations of lawmakers from both parties sexually harassing female staffers.
The bill will streamline the process a House employee must go through to report a workplace claim, including eliminating the mandatory 30-day counseling and mediation period.
The new law also requires that within 90 days, members of Congress must repay the Treasury fund controlled by the Office of Compliance. That includes members who left office and would require each claim resulting in an award or settlement be referred to the House Ethics Committee — something that is currently not automatic.
In December, Castor also co-signed a letter — joined by more than 100 of her Democratic Party colleagues — calling on Congress to open an investigation into the multiple sexual misconduct allegations against President Donald Trump.
At the time, the congresswoman told Florida Politics the movement to call out those guilty of sexual misconduct that began in the fall was “an extraordinary moment of social change.”
“I think about my daughters, who are 20 and 18, and what this means for them and other women,” Castor said. “I think we’ve got to take great care now to make sure that this movement applies to every sector of the workplace, not just entertainment and politics but folks working on farms, folks working in domestic situations in the retail and hospitality industries.
“This has to have real meaning; we’ve gotta make sure this movement is as widespread as possible.”