Washington: New Laws Prohibit Silencing of Sexual Harassment Claims

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June 7, 2018

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Washington joins New York as one of the first states to enact new laws addressing confidentiality of workplace harassment and discrimination claims.  A summary of these bills are included below.

Mandatory Confidential Dispute Resolution of Discrimination Claims Now Prohibited.  SB 6313 invalidates contractual agreement provisions that require employees to resolve a discrimination claim of any kind in a confidential dispute resolution process.  Individuals must have a right to publicly pursue a cause of action for discrimination.  It remains to be seen if arbitration agreements that fall under the Federal Arbitration Act are shielded from this law, and if this law applies retroactively to past agreements.

No Limitations to Discovery of Evidence in Civil Actions Involving Sexual Harassment or Assault.  Similarly, SB 6068 prevents employers from using any contractual provisions that limit the discovery/presentation of evidence regarding sexual harassment or assault.  The court or presiding officer will have the authority to enter an order to protect the identity of an individual who is allegedly or actually a victim of sexual harassment or assault.

Prohibition of Non-Disclosure Agreements.  SB 5996 prohibits agreements that require, as a condition of employment, for employees to waive their right to disclose information about sexual harassment or assault.  Employers may not retaliate against an employee for disclosing an incident of sexual harassment or assault, including harassment or assault that occurs off-premises at work-related events, whether the event is coordinated by the employer, employees, or a combination thereof.  The law provides an exception for settlement agreements in relation to sexual harassment.

Model Sexual Harassment Policies and Best Practices.  The Washington State Human Rights Commission is required to develop model anti-sexual harassment policies and best practices by January 1, 2019.

Action Items

  1. Have non-disclosure agreements and dispute resolution agreements reviewed with legal counsel for consistency with the new regulations.
  2. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2018 ManagEase

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