SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — State lawmakers are pushing first of its kind reforms to confront sexual harassment in the workplace.
The law would give workers more time to file harassment complaints.
Women in power exposed harassment from Hollywood to the state Capitol. But this legislation attempts to help victims of harassment in any industry across California.
Breanna Thomason worked for a trucking company when she says she was sexually harassed.
“I had one of my truck drivers come onto me and actually put hands on me,” said Thomason.
She left the company for an unrelated matter. We met her looking for a new job at the state’s employment agency. She says even if she wanted to complain about what happened, she’s run out of time. Current law only gives workers a year to file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
“This is one of the few areas of the law that provides such a limited window in which someone can assert their legal rights,” said Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes (D- San Bernardino).
“We allow a longer statute of limitations for a fender bender than we do for people to file claims of serious sexual harassment and discrimination,” said Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale).
Now assemblywomen want to extend that statute of limitations from one to three years.
“The kind of trauma you experience as a victim of sexual harassment and the fear you experience for speaking out often makes women wait,” said Jessica Stender, Attorney for Equal Rights Advocates.
Stender works for a nonprofit representing low wage women in the workforce.
She says the number of calls from victims is up roughly 25 percent.
“The ‘me too’ movement really has been affecting everyone. We hear from farm workers calling us and speaking out more about their rights—janitorial workers, women who may not have even known they what they experienced is illegal,” she said.
Thomason knew her experience was illegal and inappropriate. But didn’t know about her time limits for reporting what happened to the state.
“The victims are sometimes too afraid to even come forward,” she said
Even with those concerns, advocates expect employers to challenge the legislation.
Critics say giving victims more time to complain, increases an employer’s liability.