California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed several pieces of legislation to protect workers from sexual harassment and help sexual assault victims get justice.
The bills followed on the heels of revelations of widespread abuse by producer Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood insiders. The accusations have created a discussion about the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the U.S.
Offenders will be named
One of the bills aims to out repeated offenders. According to The Sacramento Bee, Senate Bill 820 outlaws the use of secret settlements and non-disclosure agreements for sexual harassment cases. Legislators argued the ability to keep offenders’ names private allowed these sexual predators to continue to reoffend. Victims of harassment will still be able to keep their names confidential.
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson created a bill that prevents companies from requiring employees to sign liability releases to keep their bonuses or continue their jobs. The bill demonstrates that California supports victims.
Work to end backlog of untested rape kits
Another bill requires California to conduct an audit of untested rape kits. The backlog of rape kits is a nationwide problem, and California is no exception. Currently, California has 13,615 untested rape kits.
Expanded sexual harassment training and protections
A bill introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell expands sexual harassment training. Bill 13423 requires almost all California employees attend a twice yearly sexual harassment training.
Two other bills address sexual harassment for lobbyists and legislators. Bill 419 prevents the California legislature from firing an employee or lobbyist for filing a harassment claim. It also requires that lawmakers keep an accusation on file for at least 12 years. The other bill expands ethics training for lobbyists.
Finally, Bill 1619 gives victims up to 10 years to pursue civil damages in cases of sexual assault.
With the new legislation, California is placing itself on the forefront of combatting sexual harassment and assault, by supporting victims and holding perpetrators accountable.