California Ending Silence About Sexual Harassment

The still growing #MeToo movement continues to provide a supportive way for victims of sexual harassment and assault to speak out, encouraging them to broaden awareness about the prevalence of these issues by breaking their own silence and making their experiences public. But will the #MeToo movement have the kind of long-term impact that will solidify its place in history as a turning point that ushered in actual positive change? The fate of bills like the STAND Act may be our first indication.

A Very Brief History Of The #MeToo Movement

It may seem to many people that the #MeToo movement sprang into existence recently – with the now ubiquitous hashtag turning up on Twitter in October 2017. The current tide of #MeToo came as a response to allegations of sexual misconduct made against high powered producer Harvey Weinstein, but the phrase was in similar usage as far back as 2006. Initially coined by social activist Tarana Burke on MySpace, the hashtag was given new life by actress Alyssa Milano in 2017, when she encouraged sexual harassment victims to use it on Twitter to raise awareness of how widespread this issue really is. Since then, the movement has grown tremendously, with victims from all over the world sharing their stories.

Already Making Progress In Progressive Places

As anyone who lives or works in California is probably already aware, we are often ahead of the curve when it comes to making an attempt to improve the conditions and overall experience of the employees who work in the state. For this reason, it probably comes as no surprise that the majority of California lawmakers look favorably on the STAND Act, a proposed bill looking to ban confidentiality provisions in sexual harassment settlements which has currently passed in the Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly.

What Will the STAND Act Do, If Enacted?

Senate Bill 820, better known as the STAND (Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures) Act, was introduced by state Senator Connie Leyva in January 2018. The STAND Act aims to ban the use of confidentiality clauses and non-disclosure agreements that are currently present in many sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination settlement agreements. 

Supporters of the bill feel that these clauses and non-disclosure agreements do more to shield the perpetrator in these claims, allowing them to avoid being publicly identified and in some cases, continue their behavior, going on to victimize other coworkers or employees who may be unaware of the previous claims against them.

STAND would also offer protections that would shield the claimant in these agreements, with a clause that allows them to request that their identifying details would be hidden if they so choose.

Other #MeToo Bill Proposals To Come

The STAND Act is not the only proposed bill in California that is intended to address issues that are now being re-evaluated in the wake of to the #MeToo movement. Two others include:

●      AB 1867

This proposed bill would make it a requirement for private and public employers who have more than 50 employees to keep a backlog of at least 10 years worth of any and all internal employee complaints of sexual harassment. 

●      AB1870 (The Stop the Harassment and Reporting Extension Act)

This proposed bill would increase the statute of limitations that applies to any claim filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing from 1 year to 3 years.  

If you have any questions regarding California’s current employment laws regarding claims of sexual harassment or discrimination, or if you have been the victim of harassment at your own place of work and would like to find out more about the legal options available to you, we invite you to contact us today for a free case evaluation. We can help you make sure that your own voice is heard.

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