October 01, 2020

Chair DeFazio’s Bill to Curb Sexual Assault and Harassment in Passenger Transportation Clears Full House

H.R. 5139 addresses incidents on airplanes, commuter and intercity passenger railroads, subways, buses, cruise ships, taxis, and ridesharing vehicles


Washington, DC- Today, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously adopted legislation introduced by Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) that would help track and prevent sexual assault and harassment from occurring in different modes of transportation. H.R. 5139, the “Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act” would require certain transportation carriers, including passenger airlines, commuter and intercity passenger railroads, transit agencies, operators of cruise ships, certain types of bus companies, taxis, and ridesharing companies to establish formal policies, training, and reporting structures regarding sexual assault and harassment. The legislation also requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to collect information on the number of sexual assault and harassment incidents reported by these entities and make this information publicly available. H.R. 5139 now moves to the Senate.

During a floor speech before final passage of H.R. 5139, Chair DeFazio stressed the need to adopt the legislation.

Chair DeFazio’s floor remarks on H.R. 5139, as prepared for delivery, are below.

I rise in support of H.R. 5139, the “Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act,” as amended.

The number-one goal in the transportation of people, whether it is across town or across an ocean, must be safety. That is why it is critical for companies and their contractors to have comprehensive policies in place to effectively respond to sexual assault and harassment incidents. But while it is estimated that 90 percent of U.S. companies currently have a sexual harassment policy on the books, one in five companies does not offer training to prevent such incidents. This can leave passengers vulnerable, and personnel unequipped to adequately address incidents when they occur.

Some people may wonder whether this problem is as rampant as many suggest and ask if there is enough robust, organized data out there that sheds lights on this issue? And to that I say NO! And that’s exactly the problem!

There remains no Federal clearinghouse for transportation-related sexual assault and harassment incidents. This lack of centralized data leaves the travelling public in the dark about the risk. But in reality, sexual assault and harassment constitute a growing problem in transportation. For example, FBI investigations of in-flight sexual assaults in passenger airlines rose from 38 in 2014 to 119 in 2019. According to a 2018 national study, 17 percent of all respondents experienced sexual harassment while using mass transportation. And since 2016, 260 sexual assaults aboard cruise ships have been reported to the DOT. It is by far the most frequently reported crime on cruise ships.

In recent years, there may be no other industry this issue has plagued more than transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft. In September 2019, fourteen women sued Lyft, citing the company’s failure to address a “sexual predator crisis” among its drivers. Uber identified nearly 6,000 sexual assaults and attempted sexual assaults on its platform in 2017 and 2018 alone. Anecdotal evidence suggests that sexual assault is a big problem with transportation network companies and traditional taxis alike. But TNCs and taxi companies don’t share the data that would provide a complete picture of the problem.

That’s why the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed my bill, H.R. 5139, the “Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act.” This bill will 1) require transportation providers to establish formal policies addressing sexual assault and harassment; 2) direct employees to receive specific training for not just how to handle sexual assault or harassment incidents, but also how to recognize and respond to potential human trafficking activities; and 3) charge the DOT with establishing the first-ever Federal clearinghouse for transportation-related sexual assault and harassment data, to allow the traveling public to fully understand the scope of the problem.

We can no longer allow sexual violence and abuse to persist on our roads, on our waters, or in our skies. We must be doing everything in our power to ensure our transportation system is safe for those who work in it and everyone who wishes to use it. This bill, which will allow us to finally track, respond to, and ultimately prevent sexual assault and harassment within all areas of our transportation system, brings us one step closer to attaining that goal.

I want to acknowledge and express my appreciation for the supporters of this bill. The bill has been endorsed by the American Association of Justice, Association of Flight Attendants, Air Line Pilots Association, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Rights4Girls, Survivors for Solutions and the Transportation Trades Department-AFL-CIO.

I urge my colleagues to support this measure, and I reserve the balance of my time. [End]


Original co-sponsors of H.R. 5139:

  • Julia Brownley
  • Salud Carbajal
  • Andre Carson
  • Adriano Espaillat
  • Jared Huffman
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson
  • Rick Larsen
  • Alan Lowenthal
  • Stephen Lynch
  • Tom Malinowski
  • Sean Patrick Maloney
  • Grace Napolitano
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton
  • Chris Pappas
  • Donald Payne
  • Albio Sires
  • Dina Titus

Groups supporting H.R. 5139:

  • Air Line Pilots Association
  • American Association for Justice
  • Association of Flight Attendants
  • Association of Professional Flight Attendants
  • National Center on Sexual Exploitation
  • Rights4Girls
  • Survivors for Solutions
  • Transportation Trades Dept.

Bill text can be found here.


Press Contact

Contact: Kerry Arndt