Several new laws in 2019 target sexual harassment and discrimination. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements of the previous year likely influenced the legislation. Among other things,
- Confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements are now essentially limited to the monetary amount of the settlement but cannot require confidentiality concerning the underlying factual claims. However, upon a claimant’s request, his or her identity, or facts leading thereto, may be made confidential.
- Sex harassment claims can now be made based on conduct by an expanded circle of persons, including investors, lobbyists, elected officials, and directors.
- A single act of unlawful harassment may be deemed to create a hostile work environment.
- Dismissing claims of unlawful harassment via summary judgment will be more difficult because it is now contrary to public policy to grant such dismissals.
- Employers with 5 or more employees must provide 2 hours of sex harassment training to supervisors and one hour training to non-supervisory employees by Jan. 1, 2020 and every two years thereafter.
- Boards of directors of 6 or more must have at least 3 female directors, boards of 5 must have at least two, and boards of less than 5 must have at least one.
- Hotel and motel ‘front of the house’ employees (those who have regular contact with customers) to receive human trafficking training. Training must occur within 6 mos. of hire and every 2 years thereafter.
These are just a few of the new laws. While the subjects of the new laws are worthy, it is disturbing that the legislature continues to fail to recognize that false claims can be used to extort money from employers because of the cost of defending against such claims. Thus, making it difficult to dismiss meritless claims via summary is particularly disturbing.