California enacted several laws aimed to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace to mark the beginning of 2019.
California Senate Bill 1300 went into effect on January 1. It prohibits employers in the state from requiring employees to sign some documents as part of a condition of obtaining employment, keeping employment, or receiving a raise.
One of the documents singled out in the law is "not to sue or bring a claim against the employer under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of age, gender, race, or other protected status," according to The San Francisco Chronicle. "The other is a nondisparagement agreement or other document that prohibits the employee from disclosing information about unlawful acts in the workplace, including but not limited to sexual harassment."
California also enacted Senate Bill 820, which creates new prohibitions on agreements that prevent disclosing facts related to cases of sexual harassment "except for the amount paid and the identity of the person who filed the claim if that person wants to remain anonymous," the Chronicle reports. "It does not require that such settlements be made public."
Along with these provisions, California also enacted Senate Bill 1343 to require employers with five or more employees to provide at least two hours of training to supervisors—and one hour to all employees—on sexual harassment.
California was one of at least 32 U.S. states to consider legislation related to sexual harassment and sexual harassment policies in 2017.
"States have introduced legislation to expel members, criminalize sexual harassment in legislature, and mandate harassment training within the legislature, among other topics," according to analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Sexual harassment legislation became a major focal point for state legislatures in the wake of the #MeToo movement—a worldwide phenomenon encouraging sexual harassment victims to share their stories.
With reporting of harassment on the rise, Eugene F. Ferraro, CPP, PCI, shares best practices in this month's Security Management for investigating sexual misconduct allegations in the workplace.
Seasoned security professionals, "like their counterparts in HR, know that the problem requires more than recommendations and policy tweaks," Ferraro writes. "Experienced security managers know that workplace behavior is modified and office cultures are changed when allegations of misconduct are taken seriously and investigated properly and thoroughly."