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Bill May Make It Easier To Speak Up Against Sexual Harassment

Employers regularly make employees sign arbitration agreements to cover a number of contingencies including the right to sue an employer under any circumstance. Those circumstances can include discrimination, hostile work environment, and yes, sexual harassment. Bad behavior by anyone in the organization and hierarchy can get swept under the rug simply because the employee signed an arbitration clause when getting hired. And it's a good bet that employee wasn't aware of the impact of arbitration on their ability to file a lawsuit and get their case heard in court.

Now the state of California is looking to eliminate arbitration clauses as a condition of employment.

No one wants to come to work every day and wonder if they're going to be the target of sexual harassment. It's miserable and makes for a hostile work environment along with feelings of violation. But it happens, sadly, even in this day and age of bringing the offenders to light. And arbitration clauses make it difficult to bring the offenders to justice in some form because an employee can't sue their employer for allowing the harasser to get away with their behavior. Arbitration is kept in-house and the proceedings stay private so the name of the offender never gets to the public. And the employer can make the victim's life miserable by refusing to deal with the issue because arbitration gives them the upper hand. All of this protects the employer while making sure a victim never gets a rightful closure on their grievance.

California Assembly Bill 3080 has specific language that prevents an employer from entering into a binding agreement that prevents an employee from talking about sexual harassment. In other words, if this bill is made into law, employers will no longer be able to make an employee sign an arbitration clause that prevents them from talking about and/or suing the employer over sexual harassment. The bill also goes to the extent of preventing an employer from engaging in retaliatory actions because an employee refused to sign a waiver that terminates their rights to sue over violations of employment statutes. In the event the bill passes, an employer who violates any part of the bill is considered to be committing a misdemeanor.

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