Assembly Judiciary Committee Approves Leyva Bill Banning Secret Settlements in Sexual Assault and Harassment Cases

Leyva: SB 820 Lifts ‘Curtain of Secrecy’ That Has Protected Perpetrators

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Legislation 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, passed from the Assembly Judiciary Committee earlier today.

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.  The measure will apply to both private and public employers in California, including the California State Legislature.

“As we have seen time and again, secret settlements have been used by wealthy and well-connected perpetrators to silence victims and continue hurting others,” Senator Leyva said.  “By banning the use of this legal tool unless the victim decides otherwise, SB 820 will help to protect women and others from being victimized by lifting the curtain of secrecy that has protected perpetrators for far too long. These sexual predators deserve to be revealed so that we can help to protect employees in workplaces across California. Secret settlements help aggressors evade justice, so I thank committee members for standing on the side of victims by supporting SB 820.”

For many years, non-disclosure agreements have been used to silence victims of sexual harassment and similar offenses. Claims about film producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults over many years call into question reports that Weinstein may have secretly settled previous claims, thus keeping the issue out of the public spotlight and free from law enforcement scrutiny. Additionally, 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. Since the start of the #MeToo movement, other troubling instances of secret settlements enabling ongoing sexual harassment and assault have further confirmed the need for this legislation.

Several legislators have signed on in formal support of SB 820, including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) as principal coauthor and Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) as coauthors.  Additionally, SB 820 is supported by the American Association of University Women, California Rural Legal Assistance, Congress of California Seniors, Courage Campaign, Crime Victims United of California and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), AFL-CIO.