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California Lawmakers React to #MeToo Movement in 2018 Legislative Session

Published by on October 29, 2018

California state lawmakers passed over a dozen bills targeting sexual harassment and assault in the workplace in response to the national #MeToo movement.

California will now require employees to attend regular sexual harassment training and prohibit non-disclosure agreements between employers and employees. Governor Jerry Brown signed multiple bills into law on Sunday September 30, 2018, which target workplace harassment following the wake of the #MeToo movement, including the following:

  • SB 820: Prohibits secret settlements and non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases. A victim may keep his or her name private; however, the offender’s identity cannot be confidential.
  • SB 1300: Prohibits employers from requiring their employees to sign liability releases as a condition of employment or in exchange for a bonus.
  • SB 1343: Expands the scope of the previous sexual harassment training mandate to almost all California employees.
  • SB 419: Prohibits the legislature from terminating or discriminating against an employee or lobbyist who files a harassment complaint and requires the legislature to keep records of complaints for at least 12 years.
  • AB 1619: Extends the statute of limitations to 10 years to seek civil damages from a sexual assault.
  • AB 3118: Requires a statewide audit of untested rape kits.

Governor Brown also vetoed several prominent proposed bills concerning sexual harassment, including the following:

  • AB 3080, which would have banned forced arbitration agreements. Forced arbitration agreements require workers relinquish their right to dispute matters with their employer in court as a condition of the employment.
  • AB 1867, which would have required large companies to maintain records of sexual harassment complaints for at least 5 years after the end of the alleged offender’s employment.
  • AB 1870, which would have provided employees 3 years to file an employment discrimination state claim (previously limited to 1 year).
  • AB 3081, which would have prohibited employers from terminating, discriminating or retaliating against an employee because he or she was a victim of sexual harassment.
  • AB 2713, which would have required an annual report on sexual harassment claims and settlements within California government agencies.

Welter Insight

California employers should take necessary efforts to comply with sexual harassment training requirements and maintain records of complaints and settlements in accordance with the updated policy. The recent legislation has expanded the opportunities and length of time employees will have to file and pursue sexual harassment claims against employers. Additionally, employers should avoid entering into secret settlement or non-disclosure agreements with employees, unless the employee wishes to keep his or her name confidential.

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