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California Aims to Stop Workplace Sexual Harassment Through Arbitration and Settlement Agreement Laws

In the wake of #MeToo, two new laws in California seek to prevent further workplace sexual harassment by changing how employers structure arbitration and settlement agreements, among others. Signed into law on September 30, 2018, by Governor Jerry Brown, Senate Bill No. 820 makes it unlawful for settlement agreements to include confidentiality provisions that impede a person’s right to pursue civil damages against employers and harassers. In addition, Senate Bill No. 1300, signed on the same day, bans California employers from requiring an employee to consent to non-disclosure agreements that deny the right to disclose the facts about unlawful acts in the workplace, including sexual harassment. “In light of the new laws, we recommend that California employers do not automatically incorporate confidentiality provisions in any arbitration or settlement agreement,” says Jen Cornell, employment attorney and head of Nilan Johnson Lewis’ California office. “It may still be possible to include some confidentiality provisions but now is a good time to evaluate template settlement and arbitration agreements.” Governor Brown vetoed a separate bill banning arbitration agreements, which can be useful tools for employers to sort out workplace claims, including those relating to sexual harassment. To speak with Jen Cornell about arbitration agreements and sexual harassment claims, contact her at or 612.305.7717.

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