The law was passed in response to the #MeToo movement.
In fall 2017, the problem of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace came to national prominence as the #MeToo movement swept the nation. While many Americans were aware that this was an issue, few were aware of the scope of the problem until women and men alike began speaking out about their experiences on social media with the hashtag #MeToo.
In response, California legislators introduced a bill designed to change the way that the state handles sexual harassment cases. Under current law, sexual harassment must be “severe or pervasive” to be a violation. According to an experienced sexual harassment lawyer, this reading of California law is based on a 2000 federal appellate court ruling. But under Senate Bill 1300, which was authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, this ruling will no longer be the law in California.
Critics of the ruling — including the California Employer Lawyers Association and Equal Rights Advocates — have stated that it allows perpetrators to get “one free grope” without consequences. Governor Jerry Brown signed the new law, which allows employees to file a sexual harassment claim for just one incidence of harassment, after it passed the legislature. It goes into effect on January 1, 2019.
S.B. 1300 also forbids confidentiality or non-disclosure clauses that would prohibit employees the right to discuss unlawful in the workplace. In addition, the law prohibits employers from requiring employees to release claims as a requirement of employment or in exchange for a raise. However, non-disclosure clauses are permitted as part of settlement agreements, as long as the agreement is voluntary.
This new law promises to be a major development in California for employees, as it will ensure that workers no longer have to tolerate sexual harassment for months or even years before seeking help. Employers will also be on notice that no form of sexual harassment is acceptable — and may have a greater incentive to prevent all forms of sexual violence in their workplaces.
By changing the law, California is sending a clear signal that its employees do not have to suffer “severe and pervasive” harassment as part of their jobs. Instead, even one instance of sexual harassment may be sufficient for a legal claim. Of course, it remains to be seen how courts will interpret this law. A skilled sexual harassment lawyer can work with employees who have experienced sexual harassment to help them determine if they may have a claim, either under the current law or the new law that will go into effect in 2019.
PLBSH is dedicated to assisting employees who have suffered workplace sexual harassment. We work hand in hand with our clients to help them achieve justice. If you have been sexually harassed at work, know that there is help. Contact our office at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a seasoned sexual harassment lawyer today.