For California business owners, the #MeToo movement extends to more than sexual harassment in the workplace. Indeed, it now covers how these claims are handled by employers across the state. Not surprisingly, #MeToo has generated several legislative bills, a number of which are focusing on prohibiting private arbitration of sexual harassment claims or outlawing confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements addressing sexual harassment claims.
While it is not ‘news’ that potential laws prohibiting arbitration of sexual harassment claims and nondisclosure agreements related to sexual harassment are cropping up, many employers are unaware that such laws also could apply to a wide array of other types of employment-related claims. More specifically, the means by which they are handled. For example, a bill that is currently awaiting Governor Brown’s signature targets mandatory employee arbitration agreements. The bill prohibits an employer from requiring any job applicant or employee to waive any right, forum, or procedure for a violation of any provision of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the “FEHA”). The FEHA prohibits discrimination, harassment, or retaliation based on a long list of protected classifications, including, race, national origin, religion, age, and disability. In other words, the bill does not only address arbitration of sexual harassment claims, but prohibits arbitration of virtually all claims for employment discrimination.
Put simply, California employers should be overly sensitive when using form arbitration agreements or settlement agreements, particularly when operating in multiple states, and should always consult legal counsel before entering into such agreements.
For more information on these and other laws affecting California business owners, contact our experienced employment lawyers at the Dennis Law Group.