Legislature Approves Leyva Bill Banning Secret Settlements in Sexual Assault and Harassment Cases

SB 820 Protects Victims by Eliminating ‘Curtain of Secrecy’

Friday, August 24, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), legislation banning secret settlements (non-disclosure agreements) in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination advanced to Governor Jerry Brown for consideration after earning bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature.

Taking effect on January 1, 2019 and 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—would apply to both private and public employers in California, including the California State Legislature.

“By banning secret settlements in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex discrimination, California will effectively eliminate one of the main tools that perpetrators have used over the years to silence victims and deny them justice,” Senator Leyva said. “I am grateful that the Legislature passed SB 820 and am hopeful that Governor Brown will sign this legislation as it would be a truly historic win for victims that will no longer have to suffer at the hands of perpetrators that have hidden behind the curtain of secrecy created by these settlements. SB 820 will help to keep workplaces in California free from sexual harassment and assault and protect both women and men in a wide range of work settings, such as corporate offices, hospitals, retail stores and restaurants. Legislative approval of SB 820 sends a resounding message to victims that we will do all we can to make sure that their perpetrators are held accountable for their reprehensible actions.”

As Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Senator Leyva strongly believes that non-disclosure agreements serve to silence victims of sexual harassment and similar offenses. Claims about film producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults over many years highlight reports that Weinstein may have secretly settled previous claims, thus keeping the issue out of the public spotlight and free from the scrutiny of law enforcement officials.  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 movements, several troubling instances of secret settlements facilitating the cycle of sexual harassment and assault have confirmed the need for SB 820.

Several legislators have signed on in formal support of SB 820, including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) as principal coauthor and Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) as coauthors. Since it was introduced in January 2018, SB 820 has earned support by a broad array of organizations, including the American Association of University Women, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California Employment Lawyers Association, Congress of California Seniors, Crime Victims United of California, Equal Rights Advocates and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO.

During her first term in office, Senator Leyva authored legislation signed into law to protect victims of sexual assault and harassment and ensure justice, including successful efforts to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813) in 2016, and to criminalize sextortion (SB 500) in 2017.