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New California laws take aim at sexual harassment

When the new year begins, California workers will have four new laws in place to help protect them from sexual harassment and help them take action if they have been the victims of harassment.

The author of two of pieces of legislation, State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, says, "The MeToo movement dramatically and forcefully helped lift the veil of a rampant culture of sexual harassment and assault that has pervaded our workplace for far too long. Moving toward a harassment-free culture requires comprehensive policy and legal reforms that allow victims to seek justice."

One law (SB 820) prohibits confidential settlements in cases involving discrimination, sexual harassment and assault. These secret settlements have allowed perpetrators to stay in their workplaces without others knowing about their behavior.

The Sexual Harassment Prevention and Accountability Act (SB 1300), among other things, won't allow employers to tie an employee's ability to get a promotion or raise to their silence on sexual harassment claims. It also provides a more inclusive threshold for legal action in sexual harassment cases than the current "severe and pervasive" one.

Meanwhile, thanks to SB 224, a plaintiff will no longer have to provide evidence that they had a professional relationship with the accused perpetrator that would allow that person to fire them. The new law allows for other relationships, including elected officials and investors.

The fourth new law (AB 3082) helps protect in-home caregivers, most of whom are women and minorities. Because they aren't in a traditional workplace and are often alone with the person for who they're providing care, they're too often victims of sexual harassment. Under the new law, the Department of Social Services has been tasked with implementing a policy before October 2019 that would help guard these workers and those they care for against sexual harassment.

If you're the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it's important to learn more about these new laws and how they can help you seek justice. An attorney with experience in employment law can provide more information and guidance.

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