Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act passes

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act passed its last congressional hurdle February 28 when the House voted 286-138 in favor of the Senate-approved version of the bill. President Barack Obama has promised to sign the measure.

The original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed in 1994. The most recent version expired in October 2011, and the new law reauthorizes it for another five years.

In the 1990s, the original VAWA came to be another route employees sometimes took in sexual harassment cases. Several courts had allowed employees to sue under the VAWA for workplace conduct that generally would be classified as sexual harassment.

Employees sometimes chose to sue under the VAWA instead of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because they faced fewer hurdles and the VAWA allowed them to sue the alleged harasser individually. That changed with the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court case United States v. Morrison, which struck down provisions of the VAWA.

The measure passed on February 28 includes expanded protections for Native American, immigrant, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims of abuse.