Category: Sexual Harassment

The #MeToo movement has shined a light on sexual harassment in the workplace. Since the movement began, many high-profile employers have stepped down from their positions after being accused of sexual harassment and/or assault. Essentially forcing these employers to step down does help to protect potential future victims. However, it does little to compensate employees who have already experienced the devastating harassing behavior.

There are five proposed bills in California that aim to strengthen sexual harassment law in the state. Many people across the state, including actress and activist Mira Sorvino, are encouraging Governor Jerry Brown to sign these pieces of legislation into law as soon as possible. Doing so will provide additional protections and rights to victims of sexual harassment across in California.

AB 1870: Statute of Limitations

Under current state law, victims of sexual harassment or discrimination in California only have one year to file an administrative complaint with the Department of Fair Employment & Housing. AB 1870 would extend the statute of limitations for filing a claim to three years. This would provide victims of harassment and discrimination a fair amount of time to understand their situation and carefully consider legal action.

SB 224: Expanding Relationships and Liability

When a victim of sexual harassment files a claim against an employer, he or she must prove:

  1. A specific business, service, or professional relationship exists, and
  2. The victim could not easily terminate the relationship.

This can make it difficult for victims of sexual assault to establish liability and recover damages from their employer. SB 224 would make it easier for victims to establish a valid sexual harassment case. Under the new law, the victim would only have to prove that the employer “holds himself or herself out as being able to help the plaintiff establish a business, service, or professional relationship with the defendant or a 3rd party.” This broadens the scope of possible individuals who could be liable for sexual harassment. The new law would also delete the requirement to prove that the victim could not get out of the relationship easily.

SB 1343: Expanding Training Requirements

One way to fight sexual harassment is by training employers and workers. Education is a proven tool for reducing and eliminating unwanted behavior. When employers and employees have a firm understanding of what sexual harassment is and what it looks like, unlawful behaviors are less likely to permeate a professional relationship.

SB 1343 would expand training requirements for employers with at least 5 employees. The law would also require that training materials be available in many different languages. Retooling education efforts and working to reach a wider audience may help to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.

SB 1300: Sexual Harassment Omnibus Bill

SB 1300 offers the greatest opportunity for California to change the current landscape of sexual harassment laws in the state. Under the new law, the way in which sexual harassment cases are handled in the courts would be very different. The law actually discusses court precedent and defines which cases can and cannot be used in making certain decisions.

In addition to specifically adopting and rejecting certain doctrines that have evolved through the courts, SB 1300 would also:

  • Prohibit employers from forcing employees to sign non-disclosure agreements relating to unlawful conduct in the workplace, and
  • Prevent employers from recovering attorneys fees and costs if they win a case, with limited exceptions.

The law would also permit employers to provide “bystander intervention” training to employees, which can help to halt harassing behaviors before they progress and become dangerous.

AB 3080: Banning Mandatory Arbitration

Many employers require employees to go through an arbitration process if they want to bring a sexual harassment or discrimination claim. This prevents victims from asserting their legal rights and getting the justice they deserve. Arbitration also helps to keep allegations of sexual harassment quiet, which may insulate an employer from real harm.

AB 3080 would essentially bar employers from requiring employees to arbitrate sexual harassment complaints. This would extend to employees as well as independent contractors. Banning arbitration would help to ensure that victims are able to exercise their legal rights and hold employers publicly accountable for harmful acts.

 

Have you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace? Do you want to hold your employer responsible for his or her harmful actions? Contact our San Jose employment discrimination lawyers to schedule a free consultation. We can help you assert and protect your rights.