Following sexual harassment allegations at the State Capitol, Senator Janet Nguyen has introduced Senate Bill 908 requiring transparency for sexual harassment claims against members and staff of the California State Legislature. Specifically, SB 908 would require the Legislature to track all sexual harassment claims and to release all records pertaining to complaints, investigations, and settlement records dating back from 1989 and on. This bill would protect the privacy of victims and witnesses by requiring their names be redacted from the public records.
“There must be increased transparency in the complaints process for sexual harassment claims in order to protect victims, deter harassers and achieve justice,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “Currently, the state legislature does not track complaints or release records in a timely manner. SB 908 would help shed an important light on sexual harassment claims dating back three decades while establishing an ongoing mechanism for residents to know whether their representative is engaging in depraved and abusive behavior.”
In recent months, specific and serious allegations of sexual harassment have led to the resignation of three legislators and a leave of absence has been taken by one additional member. There have been limited documents released from these investigations.
SB 908 would specifically strengthen the Legislative Open Records Act and would increase transparency by allowing Californians to see how much taxpayer money is used to settle sexual harassment claims for elected officials. By releasing this information Senator Nguyen hopes that the legislature and the public will have more information available on sexual harassment that will lead to policy solutions.
“We as leaders have a responsibility to correct an injustice that can no longer be ignored,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “By releasing three decades worth of information, I hope to discourage harassers by making their names known, while helping victims feel safer to come forward with their stories.”
A member of the Select Committee on Women, Work and Family, Senator Nguyen also co-authored Assembly Bill 403, the Legislative Employee Whistleblower Protection Act which prohibits Assemblymembers, Senators or legislative employees from preventing any person through intimidation from reporting sexual harassment, sexual assault, and any other type of illegal activity. AB 403 was signed into law on February 5, 2018.