California passes numerous #MeToo employment-related laws

This article looks at the recent employment laws passed in California addressing sexual harassment.

In the wake of the #MeToo scandal, California lawmakers are attempting to address the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace with a series of new laws. Businesses in the Golden State should be aware of these new employment laws since inadvertently violating them could cause legal headaches and unnecessary liability exposure. Below is a look at some of the most important #MeToo-related bills that were passed-as well as a couple that were vetoed.

No more secret settlements

Perhaps the most important bill that was signed into law was SB 820. This new law prohibits secret settlements and non-disclosure agreements in relation to sexual harassment claims. The law forbids alleged harassers from keeping their names secret, although victims would still have the option of keeping their identities confidential.

In addition, as the Sacramento Bee reports, other new laws also tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. SB 1300, for example, makes it illegal to require an employee to sign a liability release as a condition of either continuing their employment or receiving a bonus. As Bloomberg reports, SB 1300 also makes it easier to bring forward a sexual harassment claim by allowing workers to sue for a single incident of harassment rather than for the previous threshold of "severe or pervasive" harassment.

AB 1619 also gives sexual assault victims up to a decade to pursue a civil case for damages. Another new law, SB 1343, also expands the sexual harassment training that is already mandatory for most employees in California.

Not all bills receive governor's signature

While the bills that were signed into law could have a significant impact on a number of California businesses, there were some bills that were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The most notable veto was for AB 3080, which would have banned forced arbitration agreements.

AB 1867 was also vetoed, which would have required companies to keep records of sexual harassment complaints for up to five years after the alleged harasser had left the company.

AB 1870 was another vetoed bill and it would have given employees three years rather than the current one-year deadline for filing a discrimination claim.

Two other bills, AB 3081 and AB 2713, were also vetoed on the basis that most of their provisions are either already enshrined in current law or are already standard business practice.

Business law help

As the legal landscape for businesses constantly evolves, it is important for business owners to have qualified legal counsel on hand to help tackle these new challenges. An experienced law firm can help businesses meet their legal and regulatory requirements, thus better ensuring that they keep disputes from arising later on.