Jackson Bill to Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Passes off Senate Floor

May 31, 2018

SACRAMENTO –As more people come forward with their experiences of being sexually harassed by colleagues and bosses, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)’s legislation to fight sexual harassment in the workplace passed off the Senate floor today. Senate Bill 1300 closes loopholes in the law that discourage or prevent victims from speaking out, allow employers to avoid sexual harassment and discrimination laws, and leave employees vulnerable to sexual harassment at work.

Senate Bill 1300 (Jackson) provides guidance to the courts on the “severe or pervasive” legal standard for sexual harassment litigation, so that it is fairly applied in court to protect victims. SB 1300 also prohibits non-disparagement clauses and “sneaky releases” that prevent victims from speaking out about abuse, strengthens sexual harassment training requirements, and holds employers accountable for preventing harassment in the workplace.

“SB 1300 will bring widespread reforms to our workplace and legal cultures, to ensure victims are free to speak out, employers and perpetrators are held accountable, and our courts are fair to victims,” said Senator Jackson. “We said #metoo, now we must enact meaningful, lasting reforms to our workplace and legal cultures. Sexual harassment should never be the price anyone should have to pay for showing up to work.”

The #wesaidenough and #metoo movements brought to light the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace across all industries, and the harm it  inflicts on a victim’s emotional well-being, career, and lifetime earnings, while exposing the complex legal and cultural factors that enable sexual harassment to persist unabated. Over the past few months, Jackson, who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has held two informational hearings at the State Capitol to more closely examine the “severe or pervasive” legal standard and changes needed to create a harassment-free culture at work.

Senate Bill 1300 (Jackson) includes a number of reforms addressed in these hearings:

  • Addresses the legal standard around sexual harassment:  In response to reports of sexual harassment cases being dismissed by the courts, SB 1300 provides guidance to the courts on the “severe or pervasive” legal standard for sexual harassment, to ensure that the standard is consistently and fairly applied to protect victims.
  • Ends legal tactics that silence victims:  SB 1300 prohibits employers from requiring workers to release any and all claims against the employer, including claims for sexual harassment, as a condition of employment or in exchange for a raise or a bonus (often called “sneaky releases”). SB 1300 also prohibits employers from requiring workers to sign “non-disparagement” agreements as a condition of employment, which prevent employees from speaking out about abuse.
  • Ensures employees are informed: This bill requires employers to provide information to each employee on how to report harassment and how to contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to file a complaint.
  • Strengthens sexual harassment training: Requires all employers of 5 employees or more to provide sexual harassment training to all employees, not just supervisors, and requires employers to provide bystander intervention training, so that employees are trained on how to effectively intervene if they see inappropriate behavior taking place.
  • Holds employers accountable: SB 1300 will require that employers take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, even when the behavior in question does not rise to the “severe or pervasive” legal standard.

Senator Jackson also introduced Senate Bill 224, which is currently in the Assembly awaiting a committee hearing, to expand sexual harassment protections to explicitly prohibit sexual harassment by investors, elected officials, lobbyists, directors and producers.

SB 1300 now heads to the Assembly.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.