Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace often don’t report incidents right away. Some may fear losing their job, while others may not feel comfortable coming forward. And many who do come forward find their company taking steps to keep the complaint secret with forced arbitration.
Until recently, anyone who faced sexual harassment in the workplace only had one year to report the incident to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). And employers could require those who made complaints to go through arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit. A new law in California has increased that time limit while outlawing forced arbitration.
Three years to file a sexual harassment complaint
The new law increases the time people have to report sexual harassment. Instead of one year from the incident, employees now have three years. Lawmakers who wrote the bill drew inspiration from the #MeToo movement, which seeks to give a voice to victims of sexual harassment.
Anyone who wishes to file a lawsuit against an employer must first file a complaint with DFEH within three years of the event of harassment. The DFEH then gives the employee notice of the right to file a lawsuit. The employee has a year after that notice to sue the employer in civil court.
Outlawing forced arbitration
In addition to the increased time to file a complaint, the new bill also does away with forced arbitration. Many companies require their employers to go through arbitration for any civil issue. This practice can often keep sexual harassment complaints out of the public eye. Arbitration can also block lawsuits against companies who don’t do enough to prevent harassment in the workplace.
Now employers cannot include arbitration as a contingency of employment. Employees must agree to arbitration before companies use it.
Giving you more rights when you face sexual harassment
When you face something as serious as sexual harassment in the workplace, you may not feel comfortable reporting it right away. This new law makes sure you have time to process the incident while ensuring you have the right to file a lawsuit if your employer doesn’t do enough to prevent harassment.