Daily Labor Report®

Only Claimants Can Seek NDAs in Calif. Harassment Settlements (1)

Sept. 30, 2018, 9:10 PMUpdated: Sept. 30, 2018, 10:16 PM

Settlements in California lawsuits involving sexual harassment, assault, or discrimination can no longer include nondisclosure agreements unless claimants request confidentiality.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed S.B. 820 by Sen. Connie Leyva (D) Sept. 30 to bar nondisclosure agreements as of Jan. 1, 2019. It is one of several bills lawmakers passed in response to the #MeToo movement.

Called the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act, the new law allows plaintiffs to request nondisclosure agreements while barring defendants from requiring them. It also applies to state administrative complaints and stipulated protective orders.

“As the #MeToo movement continues to shift the culture and thinking around sexual harassment and assault, S.B. 820 will be a critical part of that much needed change in workplaces and communities in California,” Leyva said in a news release.

Consumer Attorneys of California sponsored the nondisclosure bill, as did the California Women’s Law Center. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson has also lobbied for the bill.

Employer groups have objected to the bill, arguing that without assured confidentiality, employers will more likely face a public presumption of guilt even when they settle cases that have no merit. To avoid the perception of guilt, employers will more likely fight the cases in court, the California Chamber of Commerce and six other groups said.

Brown also vetoed a number of bills that would have limited the use of arbitration agreements in employment and expanded the time claimants would have to file a harassment complaint with the state.

The nondisclosure measure signed by Brown was part of a package of bills the Governor’s office said was intended “to protect and support women, children and working families across California.” The package included S.B. 1300, which allows workers to sue after only a single incident of harassment.

Other bills signed by Brown include:

S.B. 224: includes elected officials, lobbyists, investors, and directors or producers to the types of business or professional relationships that are covered by the state’s laws against harassment;

S.B. 1343: requires employers of five or more workers, including non-supervisory employees, to provide sexual harassment training and that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to develop an online training course; and

SB 419: gives employees of the Legislature whistleblower protection for harassment and sexual misconduct complaints, which is something all other state employees have.

(This story has been updated to add a comment from bill author Sen. Connie Leyva (D) in the third paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at lmahoney@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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