This bill is a part of Inclusive America’s initiative to prevent and combat inequalities within the Federal Government. The SHAPE Act of 2023 is an updated version of the SHAPE Act of 2020 (H.R.8465).
The State Harassment and Assault Prevention and Eradication Act, or SHAPE Act, will facilitate stronger anti-harassment and discrimination policies, survivor care, and accountability at the State Department.
In October 2017, the #MeToo movement empowered women and men to speak out about their experiences with sexual harassment and demand systemic change. A month later, 223 women in the national security field—current and former diplomats, civil servants, servicemembers, and development workers—signed an open letter with the hashtag #MeToonAtSec, declaring, “We, too, are survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse or know others who are.” In April 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights highlighted similar findings in a new report titled, “Federal #MeToo: Examining Sexual Harassment in Government Workplaces” which identified ways the State Department could be doing more to keep employees safe and hold perpetrators accountable.
Enhanced Policies, Protocols, Training, and Reporting
The SHAPE Act would require the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy on the prevention of and response to harassment, discrimination, sexual assault, and related retaliation. Additionally, it would establish an Office of Employee Advocacy to provide optional legal counsel and representation to victims, receive and track claims of misconduct, run an international 24/7 hotline, administer climate surveys, and house Employee Advocates to assist victims throughout the process. Furthermore, it would require biannual Department climate surveys on workplace culture to determine the effectiveness of reforms.
Rights of Survivors and Access to Supportive Services
Requires implementation of standardized sexual assault protocols:
- Access to a trained Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate
- Provision of a sexual assault forensic evidence kit upon request and comprehensive health services
- Training of Regional Security Officers in sexual assault investigative techniques
Guarantees access to legal assistance and representation for victims. Requires availability of alternate work assignments or paid leave of absence for those alleging misconduct. Outlaws forced nondisclosure or non-disparagement agreements in employment contracts and settlement or separation agreements.
Requires an annual report to Congress on claims and disciplinary action taken to hold perpetrators accountable, as well as climate survey results.
- Requires Global Talent Management (HR) to document and maintain records of findings and disciplinary action taken, to include suspension without pay and termination.
Coalition of Supporters
Along with Inclusive America, the following organizations have shared support for the State Harassment and Assault Prevention and Eradication Act.
Related Information and News
Discrimination and Harassment Widely Reported by U.S. Diplomats, Internal Survey Finds — October 06, 2022
In a climate survey, The Wall Street Journal found that approximately half of the State Department workforce experience discrimination or report harassment.
Evaluation of the Department’s Handling of Sexual Harassment Reports — September 01, 2020
A report released by the Office of Inspector General states that 636 complaints of sexual harassment at the State Department were reported between 2014 and 2017. Additionally, the report recommended actions the State Department should take to improve employee safety.
Federal #MeToo: Examining Sexual Harassment in Government Workplaces — April 01, 2020
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published a report which identified ways the State Department could be doing more to keep employees safe and hold perpetrators accountable.
‘We, Too, Are Survivors.’ 223 Women in National Security Sign Open Letter on Sexual Harassment — December 01, 2017
In November 2017, 223 women in the national security field— current and former diplomats, civil servants, servicemembers, and development workers— signed an open letter with the hashtag #metoonatsec, declaring that they were survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse or knew others who were.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the SHAPE Act do?
- The SHAPE Act is a victims’ rights bill with increased accountability mechanisms and protection for victims.
Why is this essential for national security?
- Women are more vulnerable in the national security workforce, and there is less protection for them and their safety overseas.
- The SHAPE Act concerns national security as it protects staff in the national security workforce and ensures that the State Department is a safe workplace both domestic and overseas (#safeinascif).
What are the key features of the bill?
- Victims Protections
- No more NDAs
- One place to go
- Legal representation for victims
- Accountability and Tracking Mechanisms For State
- Enhanced investigations of misconduct, harassment, and assault allegations
- Improved policy
- Stronger consequences for harassers
How does the SHAPE Act compare to other policies/agencies?
- The SHAPE Act merely harmonizes with the same protections that staff in the Department of Defense and Congress receive.
- The ways to improve accountability mechanisms in the bill will actually make the State Department stronger.