Leyva Bill Banning Secret Settlements in Sexual Assault and Harassment Cases Clears Key Committee

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SB 820 Ensures Victims Are No Longer Silenced

SACRAMENTO – The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday passed Senate Bill 820—which will ban the inclusion of secret settlements related to specified sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and sexual harassment—by a vote of 5-1.

Authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), SB 820 will specifically ban secret settlements (non-disclosure agreements) in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination. The measure will apply to both private and public employers in California, including the California State Legislature.

“SB 820 will help to protect women and others from being victimized since it will ban the use of a legal tool that rich and powerful perpetrators have used countless times to silence victims: secret settlements,” Senator Leyva said.  “It is long overdue for California to lift the curtain of secrecy so that we can finally unmask the sexual predators who endanger the safety and well-being of primarily women across our state. Workplaces in California can and must be safe, so I am grateful that my colleagues today approved SB 820 as it brings us one step closer to ending secret settlements that allow aggressors to evade justice and able to target and hurt other victims.”

Serving as the Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Senator Leyva believes that non-disclosure agreements continue to silence victims of sexual harassment and similar offenses. Claims about film producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults over many years bring into question reports that Weinstein may have secretly settled previous claims, thus keeping the issue out of the public spotlight and free of law enforcement scrutiny. Additionally, 21st Century Fox issued a public apology and reportedly settled confidentially with Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson after she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the late Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.

The company also confidentially settled with several other women who similarly accused Mr. Ailes of workplace harassment. Since the start of the #MeToo movement, other troubling instances of secret settlements enabling ongoing sexual harassment and assault have further confirmed the need for this legislation.

Senator Leyva previously authored legislation signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (Senate Bill 813) in 2016 and to criminalize sextortion (Senate Bill 500) in 2017.

Known as the STAND (Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures) Act, SB 820 is co-sponsored by the Consumer Attorneys of California and the California Women’s Law Center and supported by the American Association of University Women, Congress of California Seniors, Crime Victims United of California and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).  The legislation is also coauthored by Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose).

Following approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the STAND Act will next be voted on by the full State Senate in the coming weeks.

 


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