Senate Passes Leyva Bill Banning Secret Settlements in Sexual Assault and Harassment Cases

Advancing to the Assembly, SB 820 Would Eliminate ‘Curtain of Secrecy’

Monday, May 21, 2018

SACRAMENTO – With bipartisan support, the California State Senate today approved legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will ban the use of secret settlements related to specified sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Co-sponsored by the Consumer Attorneys of California and the California Women’s Law Center, SB 820—also known as the STAND (Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures) Act—will specifically ban secret settlements (non-disclosure agreements) in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination.

“SB 820 is an important bill that will finally ban secret settlements, one of the primary tools that perpetrators have used time and time again to silence victims and prevent them from publicly acknowledging the harassment, assault, and discrimination they have endured,” Senator Leyva said.  “I am grateful that my Senate colleagues approved this bill today, since it sends a loud and clear message to victims that we believe them, we stand by them and will do all we can to protect them.  SB 820 shreds the curtain of secrecy that has forced victims to remain silent and empowers them to speak their truth so that we can hopefully protect other victims moving forward.  Perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions and SB 820 is a sensible bill that helps to keep workplaces in California, both in the public and private sectors, free from sexual harassment and assault. Enough is enough!”

As Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Senator Leyva believes that non-disclosure agreements continue to silence victims of sexual harassment and similar offenses. Claims about film producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults over many years bring into question reports that Weinstein may have secretly settled previous claims, hence keeping the issue out of the public spotlight and free from law enforcement scrutiny.  21st Century Fox additionally 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. Since the start of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, other troubling instances of secret settlements enabling the cycle of sexual harassment and assault have further demonstrated the need for this legislation.

SB 820 is co-authored by Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and supported by the American Association of University Women, Congress of California Seniors, Crime Victims United of California, and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).  

Senator Leyva previously authored legislation signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813) in 2016 and to criminalize sextortion (SB 500) in 2017.

As SB 820 passed from the State Senate today, it will next proceed to the State Assembly for consideration in the coming weeks.