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California Proposes New Laws on Sexual Harassment

sexual-harassment-lawSexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace is a pervasive problem in California. In the last year, movements such as Time’s Up and #Metoo have highlighted the problems of sexual harassment and assault. Following high-profile cases that have been reported widely in the media, Hollywood has taken up the cause. The California legislature has also been working to strengthen the rights of people in the workplace against sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination. There are four pending bills that are currently wending their way through the legislature that could help to significantly strengthen the rights of sexual harassment and discrimination victims.

Senate Bill 820

Introduced by state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) on Jan. 3, 2018, SB-820 would bar confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements of cases involving sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination. The bill would void confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements as being against public policy. The bill is currently before the Judiciary Committee. This bill is important because many civil sexual harassment settlement agreements contain confidentiality clauses that prohibit the victims from divulging factual information about what happened to them. If the bill is enacted into law, these types of clauses would be void and unenforceable, allowing victims to share what happened to them with others so that they can be warned.

Senate Bill 1038

Also introduced by Sen. Leyva on Feb. 8, 2018, Senate Bill 1038 would amend Section 12940 of the Government Code. This bill addresses situations in which individuals within a company retaliate against someone for complaining about sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. The bill notes that discrimination and harassment against workers are illegal when the discrimination is based on the workers’ sex, gender, race, religion and other protected factors. It also notes that it is illegal for companies to retaliate against workers for filing complaints of discrimination or harassment.

The way in which this bill would change the law is that it would allow the individuals who retaliate against the workers for filing complaints to be held to be personally liable for the retaliation and resulting damages. Currently, individuals do not have personal liability. The idea of establishing personal liability is that it would discourage people from retaliating against workers who make discrimination reports because they could be financially responsible to pay damages to the victims. The bill is currently before the Committees on the Judiciary and Appropriations for consideration.

Senate Bill 224

Senate Bill 224 was introduced by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) on Feb. 2, 2017, and was amended on Jan. 3, 2018. This bill notes that existing law requires that plaintiffs in sexual harassment and discrimination cases must prove that there is a professional, service or business relationship between the plaintiff and the harasser and specifically includes an attorney, a social worker, a real estate appraiser and a real estate agent as potentially liable parties. The bill would add multiple other relationships that could lead to liability. The additional types of people who could be liable for sexual harassment or discrimination would include an investor, elected official, director, lobbyist and producer. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass this bill on Jan. 9, 2018, and it was referred to the Assembly where it is currently being held at the desk.

Senate Bill 1300

Also introduced by Sen. Jackson on Feb. 16, 2018, SB-1300 would increase the training requirements for all workers in California. Under current law, companies that have 50 or more employees are required to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to their employees within six months of hiring and every two years after that. This bill would expand the training requirement to cover all employers in the state, including smaller ones. Employers would also be prohibited from requiring releases of claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act as a condition of getting a raise or a bonus. The bill is currently before the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.

Contact an experienced discrimination lawyer

Sexual discrimination and harassment are ongoing problems that affect people across industries. By strengthening the rights of sexual harassment and discrimination victims, the legislature could help to combat this insidious problem. While it is unclear whether these bills will be passed and enacted, the fact that they are under consideration is a good sign that the government is taking the problem seriously. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, retaliation or discrimination at your job, it is important for you to get help from an experienced employment and discrimination attorney in Los Angeles. A lawyer can assist you with gathering the evidence that you need to prove your complaint and with following the proper steps so that your rights might be protected. Contact our office today to learn more about the rights that you might have.


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