SB 820 Would Eliminate “Curtain of Secrecy” and Protect Victims
SACRAMENTO – In an effort to protect women and others from being victimized, Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) today introduced legislation to ban secret settlements (confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements) in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination.
Co-sponsored by the Consumer Attorneys of California and the California Women’s Law Center, SB 820 will ban the inclusion of secrecy clauses and/or requirements in non-disclosure agreements related to specified sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, and sexual assault. This proposed legislation will apply to both private and public employers in California, including the California State Legislature.
“As we have clearly seen over the last few months, secret settlements serve one primary purpose: to keep sexual predators away from the public eye and continuing to torment and hurt innocent victims. California successfully eliminated the statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault in 2016. Our state must again stand with victims of sexual harassment and assault by ending this unjust practice of secret settlements that keep these aggressors unaccountable and able to prey on other victims,” Senator Leyva said. “These perpetrators should not be allowed to endanger others or evade justice simply because they have a fat wallet at their disposal. SB 820 will not prevent people from mutually agreeing to settle, but it will simply prevent the perpetrator from requiring the victim to remain silent about the harassment as a condition of settlement. Everyone deserves to live and work free from sexual harassment, assault and discrimination. The STAND Act helps to end the curtain of secrecy that has existed for far too long.”
As the Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Senator Leyva believes that non-disclosure agreements continue to silence alleged victims of sexual harassment and similar offenses. Recent claims about film producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults bring into question reports that Weinstein may have secretly settled previous claims, thereby keeping the issue out of public and law enforcement scrutiny. Last year, 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. Over the last few months, other troubling instances of secret settlements enabling ongoing sexual harassment and assault have further confirmed the need for this legislation.
“This legislation will help end the cycle of sexual harassment and assault that continues to torment victims in the workplace,” said Micha Star Liberty, a vice president of Consumer Attorneys of California. “Too often, perpetrators have been allowed to offend again and again with no public accountability. By shining a bright light on this wrongdoing, Senator Leyva’s bill will have a deterrent effect. It declares that enough is enough.”
Senator Leyva 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.
Coauthored by Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), the STAND (Stand Together Against Non Disclosures) Act will be eligible to be considered in Senate policy committees later this spring.