A vulnerable population gains some sexual harassment protections

Posted in Sexual Harassment on October 11, 2016

A recent national media piece notes that, “Female janitors in California … aren’t always sure their supervisors’ actions amount to sexual harassment.”

A legislative bill signed into law last month by Gov. Jerry Brown seeks to expand their knowledge regarding sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and encourage their proactivity in taking legal action against perpetrators.

Reportedly, many janitorial workers are at heightened risk of being sexually targeted when compared with employees in many other industries. They often work alone, late at night, and in nearly empty buildings.

Moreover, and as noted by the Bloomberg media outlet, many janitorial employees in California work for what are essentially fly-by-night companies that operate illegally in many respects. Subcontractors often circumvent labor laws and instill environments marked by fear and retaliation.

Assembly Bill 1978 is intended as an antidote to such wrongdoing, with certain requirements central to the legislation seeking to draw all janitorial businesses operating in California out into the light and rendering them accountable to employees and state regulatory officials.

The new law imposes an annual registration on every janitorial company, for example. Importantly, too, it mandates what Bloomberg terms “intensive employee training” focused upon sexual harassment and assault every two years. That training, notes one union official, “will empower the women and, most importantly, [help them] know where they can go for help.”

Sexual harassing behavior in any context is a pernicious evil that needs to be prominently spotlighted, condemned and punished. AB 1978, which will take legal effect on July 1, 2018, seeks to do exactly that.