Employers and employees alike may see big changes in the upcoming year regarding state laws dealing with sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. Following the allegations against former film producer Harvey Weinstein and the rise of the #MeToo movement, the legislative floodgates have opened as a number of states have proposed bills attempting to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace.
The bills being proposed take on different forms in an attempt to end harassment. Some, like bills introduced in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, and Washington, would limit the use of confidentiality agreements. This type of law would prohibit employers from entering into non-disclosure agreements with employees regarding sexual assault and harassment claims. Other bills, like the ones proposed in New York and South Carolina, would prohibit mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims, as arbitration is often confidential. So far, it seems the laws are aimed at decreasing the culture of silence surrounding workplace harassment. However, states may also end up introducing legislation aimed at preventing sexual harassment before it begins by requiring workers to attend mandatory sexual harassment trainings, although no state has introduced such a bill as of yet.
As a result, employers should keep abreast of laws in their states regarding requirements surrounding sexual assault and harassment and ensure their Employee Agreements conform with state laws. Employers across multiple states should also be aware that laws surrounding these requirements may differ, as the types of bills being introduced across the country are not uniform in nature.