Thursday, 02 February 2023

Bill protecting victims of harassment from retaliation passes Assembly Committee

SACRAMENTO – In an ongoing effort to protect victims of sexual harassment and other related forms of harassment and discrimination, State Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) announced that the Assembly Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that will clarify that harassers can be held personally liable for retaliating against an employee for exercising his or her legal rights against discrimination and harassment under state law.

Specifically, SB 1038 clarifies that harassers may be held personally liable for taking retaliatory action against workers who assert their legal rights under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA.

In current law, individuals may already be held personally liable for harassment claims under FEHA.

However, the California Supreme Court’s decision in Jones v. The Lodge at Torrey Pines Partnership (2008) 42 Cal. 4th 1158 rendered the issue of whether individuals may be held personally liable for retaliation unclear.

By statutorily clarifying that harassers can also be held liable on a personal basis in cases of retaliation, SB 1038 will help ensure that individuals who retaliate against workers to silence or intimidate them will be held accountable.

“The continued focus on the #MeToo and #WeSaidEnough movements highlights the continued need for California to strengthen protections for victims of harassment from retaliation, since fear of retaliation is one of the biggest barriers to victims coming forward,” Sen. Leyva said. “SB 1038 will ensure that, if and when a person decides to exercise their legal rights against discrimination and harassment, he or she is not retaliated against for taking those admirable steps. I appreciate the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s support of this measure today so that we can make sure that victims are not silenced or otherwise intimidated.”

As the vice chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Senator Leyva authored legislation signed into law to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813) in 2016 and to criminalize sextortion (SB 500) in 2017.

The Senator is also currently leading efforts to ban secret settlements in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination in California (SB 820) and require law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories to promptly test all newly collected rape kits in California (SB 1449).

Co-sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates and California Employment Lawyers Association, SB 1038 is supported by the California Women’s Law Center, Child Care Law Center, Church State Council, Citizens for Choice – Nevada County, Coalition of Labor Union Women – California Chapter, Consumer Attorneys of California, Legal Aid at Work, National Council of Jewish Women – California Chapter, Public Counsel, Tradeswomen, Inc., Women Lawyers of Sacramento and Women’s Foundation of California.

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