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New bill targets sexual harassment in venture capital

Sexual harassment is a major problem in many industries, and the consequences are far broader than workplace politics. Inappropriate speech and behavior reduces participation in the workforce, erodes faith in protective laws and slows innovation.

Fewer economies can appreciate the value of harassment-free workplaces as much as California. The variety of jobs and products created in the state encompasses a high volume of male and female workers, and each worker must understand and follow basic guidelines for preventing sexual harassment.

A new bill under consideration in the California State Senate would extend some of the state's sexual harassment protections from workers to entrepreneurs. A senator representing Santa Barbara wants to amend the current law covering business relationships to protect people seeking funding from venture capitalists.

Female tech entrepreneurs report a concerning level of sexual harassment during meetings and communication with venture capitalists. Voluntary decency pledges – in which firm partners and managers agree to treat entrepreneurs as they would employees – are well-intentioned but not enough, according to the senator.

Sexual harassment, the senator reminds us, occurs at the intersection of power and opportunity. It is the responsibility of managers and staff to avoid taking purposeful advantage of employees or behaving in a way that can be perceived as inappropriate or threatening.

Victims of sexual harassment have a right and responsibility to report improper behavior for their own good and the good of the workplace. Legal representation can help determine steps to escalate complaints or take action through settlements or court proceedings.

Source: Business Insider, "A California Senator wants to make it illegal for VCs to sexually harass entrepreneurs," Caroline Cakebread, Aug. 21, 2017

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