COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - After a multitude of sexual harassment claims against men in power in politics, Hollywood, and in the media, South Carolina state lawmakers are pushing a bill aimed at protecting employees in the workplace.
The group of Democrats, Republicans, women, and men behind this bill that's been pre-filed want to ban arbitration; the bill sponsored by Rep. Beth Bernstein (D- Richland) would prevent employees from being forced to enter contracts with their bosses to settle disagreements outside of a courtroom.
"We have to combat sexual harassment. It is a real issue," Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell (D- Lancaster) says. She is one of the bill co-sponsors.
"You know, the right to a trial by jury is protected in the Sixth Amendment but we've eroded that so much by allowing entities to have forced arbitration," Powers Norrell says.
Advocates for women's rights agree. WREN (the Women's Rights and Empowerment Network) consulted lawmakers in drafting the legislation.
"We are going to start hopefully seeing the power dynamics change where those limited people in power are controlling everything and us- in the general public take our own ownership of our lives and have power over it," Ashley Lidow says.
Powers Norrell hopes this bill is a starting point. Inside the State House, she says harassment allegations on the national scale have changed how she and her colleagues interact; they're more aware of inappropriate behavior.
"On the other hand, we have people from many generations, and some of our older generations they may not even realize when they are committing sexual harassment," she says.
The House of Representatives does have an anti-harassment policy in place. But Powers Norrell feels more training, in addition to the policy, is a good idea. She says that being a woman in politics means walking a fine line.
"Another backlash layer that we have to look at is, we don't want our male colleagues who are in power especially, to be so afraid to talk to female legislators that we won't be able to get our bills passed," she says.
Powers Norrell thinks the challenge to passing this bill is going to be time. It can be a lengthy process to get the bill through debate after debate in committee, onto the floor.