Huffman, Bonamici, Young, González-Colón Introduce Bill to Strengthen NOAA Response to Sexual Harassment, Assault

April 29, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC [04/29/21] – During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK), and Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) response to sexual assault and sexual harassment, and to secure more resources for survivors.

“Sexual assault and harassment are pervasive crimes that cannot be tolerated in any workplace, especially in our federal workforce,” said Congressman Jared Huffman. “We must do more to prioritize the safety and well-being of those who work for the agency. This legislation will further NOAA’s prevention and response policies and increase accountability to protect employees and help survivors. The work done by NOAA is critical for our communities, and the people doing this important work deserve better.” 

“Scientists and researchers must be safe and feel safe at work, and not fear retaliation for reporting sexual harassment and assault,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “This starts with prevention and a meaningful way for survivors to seek justice. Several years ago, I spoke with a fisheries biologist who was forced to put her career on hold because of sexual harassment on a NOAA vessel. I worked with NOAA leadership to make tangible changes to the agency’s policies and procedures for reporting and investigating sexual harassment, and the scientist eventually returned to her research. But she is not alone in her experience, and there are still gaps in NOAA’s efforts. This bipartisan bill will expand coverage of NOAA’s sexual harassment prevention and response policy and provide a secure reporting structure and advocacy resources for survivors.”

"I have been a long-time supporter of NOAA and its mission. But if they are to continue leading the world in marine research and data collection, action must be taken so that researchers, scientists, and other employees feel safe in the workplace," said Congressman Don Young. "Protecting employees means preventing sexual assault in the workplace and putting safeguards in place so that survivors never fear retaliation. I am proud to join my friends, Representatives Bonamici, González Colón, and Huffman, on the bipartisan NOAA Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Improvements Act. Through this legislation, NOAA will have better, more effective mechanisms in place to prevent sexual harassment and provide the support necessary for survivors to heal."

“I’m proud to once again join my colleagues as co-lead of the bipartisan NOAA Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Improvements Act,” said Rep. González Colón. “This legislation is crucial to provide NOAA with additional tools to strengthen its sexual assault and harassment policies and to secure more resources to support survivors. Sexual harassment and sexual assault have serious implications for the victims?most of which are women?including an impact in their career and mental health. We must ensure that the right mechanisms are in place to guard against these attacks and be prepared to fully assist and empower survivors for when these occur. I invite my colleagues to support this important legislation.”

The bipartisan NOAA Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Improvements Act will strengthen NOAA's sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention and response program, coordinate claims, improve reporting, and better support survivors. NOAA employs approximately 12,000 people, with many working in remote locations or aboard vessels to conduct science and research on climate, weather, oceans, and the coast.

The NOAA Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Improvements Act will:

  • Expand coverage of NOAA’s sexual harassment prevention and response policy.
  • Direct NOAA to provide a clear mechanism for anonymous reports of sexual harassment.
  • Strengthen advocacy resources for survivors.
  • Provide for a secure reporting structure for survivors.
  • Expand reports to Congress on sexual harassment, sexual assault, and equal opportunity employment.
  • Improve the ability of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement to enforce a prohibition on assault, intimidation, and interference with fisheries observers.

More details about the legislation can be found here. A copy of the bill text can be found here.

Bonamici and Young are Co-Chairs of the House Oceans Caucus. Bonamici has been outspoken about the need to end sexual harassment in the workplace. She has long advocated for survivors of sexual harassment at NOAA and repeatedly called on the agency to improve its policies.

Press Contact

Natalie Crofts, 202-754-1649