Work/Environment Law Group
San Francisco And Statewide Employment Law, Energy Law

Combatting Workplace Harassment

Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, Les Moonves . . . attention-grabbing names. Each of these men, accused of committing unwanted sexual harassment at their work sites, has faced a public reckoning under the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

Sexual harassment is not confined to the gleaming corridors of power, where the headlines flow. Rather, it occurs in many other types of workplace settings -- in warehouses, restaurants, office cubicles, hospitals, and, often, during night shifts.

Combatting workplace harassment requires someone to have courage to speak up against it. Once the victim-shaming and silence breaks, California's Government Code 12940 statute protects those employees and provides the legal guidelines that employers must follow to protect against workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Recent laws in California provide new and additional protections to employees in the area of sexual harassment prevention. These new laws include:

( 1) SB 1300 - This bill provides many new protections for employees. For example, it prohibits employers from making any new employees sign "gag orders" when they are offered a job, and instead allows employees to disclose information about sexual harassment and other unlawful acts at work if needed;

(2) SB 820, The Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act - Before this law, employers who entered into out of court settlements concerning sexual harassment and other related claims often insisted upon strict confidentiality provisions. The money would be paid and the news about the case would go quiet. This law prohibits employers from mandating confidentiality (only amounts paid could be restricted from disclosure). As a result, employers will find it more difficult to support harassers they may have otherwise allowed to remain employed because there is more transparency;

(3) AB 3109 - This law does not permit contracts or settlement agreements with employees to prevent that employee's right to testify in official proceedings about alleged criminal or sexual harassment;

(4) AB 1619 - Increases the statute of limitations for an adult victim of sexual assault to file a civil action to 10 years. Important Note: the statute of limitations to file an administrative complaint for harassment, retaliation or discrimination remains at only 1 year.

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