Legislation would require airlines, commuter rail lines, buses to adopt anti-harassment rules

After a survey that found widespread sexual harassment on commercial airlines, federal lawmakers have proposed legislation requiring airlines and other transit operations to adopt policies to crack down on harassment and abuse.

The bill by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) calls on airlines, bus companies, railroads and commuter lines to adopt antiharassment policies within 90 days of the bill’s passage. DeFazio’s staff is not sure when the bill might be brought up for a vote.

A new policy could allow the airlines and transportation companies to permanently ban any passengers who commit sexual assault or harassment on that transportation line, according to the legislation introduced Thursday. It was co-sponsored by 26 other Democratic lawmakers and supported by several employee unions.


The co-sponsors do not include members of the GOP, who outnumber Democrats in the House of Representatives.

The legislation also calls for airlines and others to create a system that lets employees report assaults and harassment. The bill amends the current law to say that sexual assaults and harassment are considered interference with the crew of a flight or transit trip. The civil penalty for interfering with a flight crew would be increased under this law to $35,000 from $25,000.

“On our international flights, we have special problems reporting incidents to authorities abroad, where the laws and enforcement of those laws can be very complex,” said Abby Alconcher, an employee assistance program specialist for the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants. “These new guidelines and federal requirements are much needed and will help make the skies safer.”

The legislation comes about a week after another flight attendants union released a survey of more than 3,500 flight attendants from 29 airlines in the U.S. It found that 35% of flight attendants say they have experienced verbal harassment, with 18% saying they have been physically abused by passengers over the last year.

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