Capitol Alert

Harassed at work? Bill gives California victims years to complain

Why provide more time for workplace harassment complaints?

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, explains the need for Assembly Bill 1870, giving workers up to three years to file a sexual harassment claim with the state.
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Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, explains the need for Assembly Bill 1870, giving workers up to three years to file a sexual harassment claim with the state.

Californians experiencing workplace harassment and discrimination could get more time to take legal action.

Assembly Bill 1870, introduced Thursday by a bipartisan group of female lawmakers, would give victims up to three years after harassment occurs to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the state agency tasked with enforcing anti-discrimination laws. Currently, Californians have one year to submit a claim, the first step before an external investigation, mediation or a lawsuit.

Assemblywomen Eloise Reyes, D-Grand Terrace; Laura Friedman, D-Glendale; and Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, said the wave of high-profile stories about workplace sexual harassment in recent months demonstrates the need to give victims more tools and remedies.

“We must take proactive steps to ensure that victims are protected and that they know they are not alone. They must never feel intimidated to share their story,” Reyes said at a press conference. Their proposal “will allow victims the time they need to seek justice.”

Friedman said many victims have no idea their window to act is limited until it is too late, or they fear retaliation and want to find a new job before suing their employer. She pointed out that the statute of limitations for a car accident claim is two years: “There’s a disconnect there that I think the average person would say is not reasonable.”

All three legislators are part of a committee currently reviewing and updating the Capitol’s internal policies on sexual harassment. In October, nearly 150 women signed a letter denouncing a “pervasive” culture of harassment and abuse in California politics.

The movement, known as We Said Enough, has placed pressure on the Legislature to overhaul its own approach to investigating and disciplining incidents of workplace harassment. But attention is also expanding to other industries: In addition to AB 1870, proposals have been introduced to ban confidentiality agreements in sexual misconduct settlements and to provide “panic buttons” for hotel employees, such as maids, who work alone in guest rooms.

Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, said on December 14, 2017 that he is working to make changes in how sexual harassment complaints have been handled in the California Legislature.

Christine Pelosi, chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, said news of sexual assault or harassment at the Capitol is largely shared through a 'whisper network' but not reported. Video courtesy of The California Channel.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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