Sexual harassment in the workplace is no longer something that people simply have to quietly endure — it’s now a subject of intense scrutiny.
California, in particular, seems to have had a wake-up call when it comes to how problematic sexual harassment really is in the workforce — and what type of barriers victims have faced in the past. Indeed, the wave of sexual harassment claims against members of the state legislature has been somewhat embarrassing — not to mention expensive. Defending accusations of sexual harassment in the Senate and the Assembly have cost taxpayers more than $1.8 million in legal expenses since 2018 alone.
As a response to the changing societal attitudes in regards to workplace harassment, there are a number of new laws on the books that California employers need to keep in mind:
Assembly Bill 3109
Victims of sexual harassment can no longer be contractually prevented through nondisclosure agreements and the like from testifying about either criminal conduct or sexual harassment when requested or compelled in a lawful process in any kind of legislative, administrative or judicial proceeding. This used to be done to silence victims and protect the reputations of both companies and abusers alike.
Senate Bill 820
Similarly, this bill prevents settlement agreements used to resolve lawsuits over sexual harassment, sexual assault and similar mistreatment from including clauses that would restrict the victim from disclosing factual information about either any harassment or related retaliation.
Senate Bill 1300
It’s now illegal for an employer to require an employee to agree to a nondisparagement clause or release a Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) claim in exchange for continued employment, raises or bonuses.
Essentially, all three laws take aim at the shroud of secrecy that has protected abusers and silenced the victims of sexual harassment — and it’s about time. If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment on the job, find out more about your rights. You may have more options than you realize.