Staff Report

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced legislation to close loopholes in laws that discourage or prevent victims from speaking out, allow employers to avoid sexual harassment and discrimination laws, and leave employees vulnerable to sexual harassment at work.

Senate Bill 1300 provides guidance to the courts on the “severe or pervasive” legal standard for sexual harassment litigation so that it is fairly applied in court to protect victims, a Jackson spokeswoman said.

SB 1300 also prohibits non-disparagement clauses and “sneaky releases” that prevent victims from speaking out about abuse, strengthens sexual harassment training requirements, and holds employers accountable for preventing harassment in the workplace.

“Over the past few months of this significant national discussion, it has become clear that it is not merely enough that we hold perpetrators accountable, although that is vital, and that there is no single, simple solution for combatting sexual harassment at work,” Jackson said.

“Instead, we need widespread reforms to our workplace and legal cultures, so that victims are free to speak out, the culture of our workplaces change, employers and perpetrators are held accountable, and our courts are fair to victims,” she said.

Over the past few months, Jackson, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has held two informational hearings at the state Capitol to more closely examine the “severe or pervasive” legal standard and changes needed to ensure a harassment-free culture at work.