In the midst of debates surrounding sexual misconduct on federal and state levels, Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills into law this week that target workplace sexual harassment and aim to provide justice to survivors of sexual assault.
Among the bills Brown signed Sept. 30 were SB 1343, introduced by state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and AB 3082, introduced by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego. These bills have been passed as a part of a larger national discussion about sexual harassment and are among several bills addressing sexual misconduct that were signed Sunday.
“The problem of sexual harassment in the workplace has always been prevalent, but it has come to light in recent times thanks to high profile cases in Hollywood, Sacramento, Washington DC, and other statehouses,” Mitchell said in a statement. “It is undeniable that sexual harassment also occurs in less-glamorous workplaces.”
SB 1343 builds on the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which requires employers with 50 or more employees to offer a minimum of two hours of training and education regarding sexual harassment and abusive conduct every two years. SB 1343 instead requires an employer with five or more employees to provide the same amount of sexual harassment training by Jan. 1, 2020 and once every two years thereafter.
“Approximately 15.5 million employees will be impacted by this bill — 92% of our workforce,” Mitchell said in a statement. “We must protect all of our workers.”
AB 3082 addresses the In-Home Supportive Services program, or IHSS, which is administered by the California Department of Social Services, or CDSS. This bill requires CDSS to develop or identify educational material about sexual harassment prevention. This material must then be made available to IHSS providers and recipients, and a method of uniform data collection must also be utilized to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment in the IHSS program.
Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the language of AB 3082 has been “watered down.” Before it was amended Aug. 17, the bill called for CDSS to develop a policy regarding sexual harassment of IHSS providers — but now, CDSS only needs to report its educational materials to the state Legislature rather than the actual policy regarding sexual harassment within IHSS.
While Brown has signed several bills related to sexual harassment, he has also vetoed close to half a dozen, including AB 1870. This bill proposes an expansion of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act — survivors of sexual assault would be able to extend the period in which they can file a complaint to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing from one year to three years after the alleged incident.
“Sometimes people aren’t ready to report,” Worthington said. “Extending time to file a claim is very important, as seen in the state or nation. Sometimes people don’t come forward for extended periods.”