A group of former government staffers on Monday called for the approval of a package of measures meant to curtail sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
It is the latest set of priorities from the Sexual Harassment Working Group, formed during the #MeToo movement to highlight harassment and abuse facing public employees and the roadblocks they often face in the legal system.
“We know how important these changes are because we’ve been there,” the group said in a joint statement. “Staff, especially public servants, are incredibly vulnerable but do not have the same protections as those in private industries. Winning an election or a political appointment must not be a permission slip to abuse and harass staff. We intend to hold perpetrators and employers accountable.”
The bills include a measure that is meant to end the "license to harass" that would codifying under state human rights law protections for the workers of elected and appointed officials of government entities.
The measure addresses court cases in which government entities have stated they are not the direct employer of a harassment victim, but instead the victim is under the direct employ of the elected or appointed government official. This has made it difficult for workers to seek legal recourse.
The group is also backing a bill that is meant to ensure staff in the legislative and judicial branches are protected from retaliation and disciplinary action under the whistleblower law when reporting misconduct violations.
Another bill is aimed at barring settlement agreements in sexual harassment or discrimination cases in which the victim is required to pay damages in violation of a non-disclosure agreement.
And the group wants to ban clauses that inclue "no-rehire" stipulations in order to guard against retaliation.
Additional bills would require registered lobbyists to take annual sexual harassment training and extending statute of limitations for harassment lawsuits to six years.
“Sexual harassment, and other forms of workplace-based harassment, is deeply traumatizing for those who experience it. Being targeted for sexually hostile or inappropriate treatment often evokes feelings of deep shame," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who sponsors the statute of limitations extension with Sen. Andrew Gounardes. "As a result, survivors may need time to process their trauma before they are able to speak out."
"An unnecessarily short statute of limitations doesn’t simply deny justice to an individual who is processing harm, it shields harassers and empowers them to continue tormenting others."