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Bonamici Stands Up for Women Scientists Experiencing Sexual Harassment

March 13, 2018
Press Release
Congresswoman Helped Oregon Fisheries Biologist Return to Work After Harassment in the Workplace

In a recent Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee hearing about sexual harassment and misconduct, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) stood up for women scientists who have experienced sexual harassment at work. During the hearing, Bonamici referenced a case in which she intervened to assist a fisheries biologist who had been stopped from doing research by pervasive sexual harassment. Bonamici discussed what happened to the biologist and other women in similar situations with the National Oceanic and Administrative Administration (NOAA). Following that discussion NOAA made significant changes to their sexual harassment prevention and response policy, which was released last month.

You can find video of the Congresswoman’s remarks in the subcommittee hearing here.

“I’ve been humbled by the bravery of women in many industries who have come forward and shared their experience with harassment in the workplace,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “No matter the industry, everyone deserves to work in a safe and welcoming workplace. We must do everything we can to make sure our scientists and researchers can work on scientific advancements free from fear of harassment and abuse.

“A few years ago a fisheries biologist came to my office with a serious issue. She and some of her female colleagues had experienced sexual harassment while conducting research on a ship owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“After reporting the harassment, this talented scientist had been effectively ‘grounded’ from furthering her career and her important research was derailed. Her colleagues and her harasser knew that she had reported the harassment, and she was counseled against going to sea, for her own safety. There seemed to be little investigation into her case and other women’s reports of pervasive sexual harassment.

“I contacted the former NOAA Administrator, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, who took this issue very seriously. NOAA responded and began changing their policies and procedures. They made it easier to report sexual harassment, implemented new training, and changed their investigation protocol. The investigation into this scientist’s case was completed. Best of all, she was able to return to sea and resume her research. She has gone on three research cruises, and has said, ‘for the first time in my career I was able to focus entirely on my work.’

“We must do more to prevent harassment, more to make sure victims of harassment can seek justice, and more to hold harassers accountable for their actions.”

Bonamici has been an outspoken critic of sexual harassment in the workplace. She introduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit the requirement of nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment claims brought through the Congressional Office of Compliance against members of Congress.