During his last days in office, California Governor Jerry Brown signed several bills into law that are said to could have a large impact on how employees in the state bring discrimination and harassment claims and how these claims are settled.
In particular, the laws affect how employers in Los Angeles and all across California resolve discrimination and harassment claims filed by their employees. “Regardless of how an employee wants to settle such a claim – either by a law of settlement or by motion for summary judgment – the new law is about to turn everything upside down,” warns our Los Angeles discrimination attorney at JML Law.
What will the new law change?
The legislation in question is called Senate Bill No. 820. Under the current law, which will remain in effect until December 31, 2018, employers have a right to enter into settlement agreements containing nondisclosure provisions that prevent the claimant and other parties from discussing not only the settlement amount but also the basis of the claim.
In the past 12 months, these nondisclosure provisions have come under fire dozens of times in the sexual harassment cases of Harvey Weinstein, Bill, O’Reilly and a number of other powerful men. These men were to known to have settled sexual harassment claims in the past, and their victims were not able to go public with the accusations due to the contents of the nondisclosure agreement signed in exchange for their compensation.
Prevention of disclosure of this information will be prohibited
But the practice of offering and signing settlement agreements that prevent parties from the disclosure of certain information will now be prohibited under California law. Under the new Senate Bill No. 820, which will come into effect starting January 1, 2019, both public and private employers will be prohibited to enter into settlement agreements that prevent the disclosure of the following information:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual harassment
- Workplace sexual harassment
- Workplace discrimination on the basis of sex and gender
- Failure to prevent acts of sexual harassment and discrimination and in the workplace
- Retaliation against employees for reporting sexual harassment or discrimination at work
“The new law did not eliminate the provision that parties can enter into settlement agreements preventing the disclosure of claimants’ identities and amounts paid in the settlement,” says our experienced discrimination attorney in Los Angeles.
The logic behind Senate Bill No. 820 in California
The goal of the new law is crystal clear: to make it impossible for serial harassers and those who discriminate against others to continue their unlawful behavior unpunished. But the collateral effect of the law is that the new provisions could make it more difficult for employers to resolve claims filed by their employees.
In fact, employers may have trouble resolving baseless or weak harassment and discrimination claims, as claimants may choose to be not cooperative in settlements and there will be no way to identify the claimants. Critics say that the new law can do more damage than good, while others praise California lawmakers for the new legislation.
If your employer offers you a settlement that prohibits disclosure of information regarding the claim after January 1, 2019, it is recommended to speak to a Los Angeles discrimination attorney. Find out whether your employer’s actions are unlawful or not. Contact JML Law by calling at 818-610-8800 to get a free consultation.