How a Recently Signed Bill May Offer Enhanced Protections and Options for California Workers Harmed by Sexual Harassment

On September 30, Governor Brown signed into Law Senate Bill 1300. While that name and number may, by themselves, mean nothing to you, it is important to know what this new law does. This law substantially strengthens California’s law surrounding workplace sexual harassment and sexual harassment lawsuits. Importantly, the new law clarifies that even as little as a single incident of sexual harassment may be enough to give a victimized worker a valid sexual harassment claim in court. With this new law’s provisions in place, victims of harassment have an even greater opportunity than ever to get much-needed compensation. To learn more about your legal rights, and how they may have changed since the law has changed, talk to a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney.

In the past, many courts have required that the victimized worker prove that the harassment she/he endured was either severe or pervasive. That standard, the California Employment Lawyers Association concluded, was not sufficient, which led it to advocate for S.B. 1300. Too many times, advocates for the bill argued, the old standard allowed harassers to escape responsibility, and victims were closed off from compensation for their damages, because the incident was isolated. This new law is designed to wipe out that “one free grope” rule.

The new law bars employers from requiring their employees to sign certain agreements in exchange for raises or continued employment. The types of agreements covered under this provision of the law included agreements to release claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and “gag” agreements that prevent victimized workers from disclosing illegal acts that they suffered in the workplace.

S.B. 1300 also expressed some clear opinions when it came to previous court decisions. The bill voiced approval for a legal standard that says that a victimized worker “need not prove that his or her tangible productivity has declined as a result of the harassment,” but need only prove that “a reasonable person subjected to the discriminatory conduct would find… it more difficult to do the job.” (That standard was originally laid out in Justice Ginsburg’s opinion in a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court harassment case.) The bill also approved of a state Supreme Court ruling that said that the “stray remarks doctrine” cannot defeat a sexual harassment case. In that opinion, the court said that, even if the remark was made by a “nondecisionmaker” or was not connect to any employment decision, it could still be enough proof of the totality of the circumstances of the harassment the victimized worker allegedly suffered.

The law is ever-changing and with the latest changes comes potential new opportunities for those victimized by workplace harassment. To discover what rights you might have in obtaining civil compensation, reach out to the Oakland employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. We have spent many years helping those harmed by harassment and other illegal employment practices. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

California Legislature Contemplates Extending Discrimination and Harassment Statute of Limitations from One to Three Years, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, March 13, 2018

Ninth Circuit Revives County Employee’s Case Because Sheriff’s Hugs Could Amount to Harassment, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, April 27, 2017