Senator Leyva: Ban Secret Settlements in Sexual Assault and Harassment Cases

Bill Would Protect Women, Communities From Sexual Predators

Thursday, October 19, 2017

SACRAMENTO – In light of recent public disclosure of possible sexual harassment and assaults by film producer Harvey Weinstein and building on her previous successful efforts to ensure justice for victims of rape and sexual assault, Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) today announced that—when the California State Senate reconvenes in early January—she will introduce legislation to ban secret settlements (confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements) in sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex discrimination cases.

“Secret settlements in sexual assault and related cases can jeopardize the public—including other potential victims—and allow perpetrators to escape justice just because they have the money to pay the cost of the settlements,” Senator Leyva said.  “This bill will ensure that sexual predators can be held accountable for their actions and ideally prevent them from victimizing others.  As the Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, I look forward to working with my colleagues so that we can ensure that paths to justice are not closed for victims that have been robbed of their sense of safety by perpetrators.  These secret settlements in workplace and other settings can ultimately endanger the public by hiding sexual predators from law enforcement and the public.”

Confidential (i.e. secret) settlements 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 confidentially 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.  These instances are just two of the most troubling reports of sexual improprieties in our culture and workplaces.

Senator Leyva previously 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.