Oregon’s Unions Lead Legislative Effort to Fight Sexual Harassment and Discrimination at Work
The Oregon Workplace Fairness Act is a multifaceted approach to protecting workers from sexual harassment and discrimination at work.
Salem, Ore. – The Oregon AFL-CIO is pushing for stronger protections against workplace sexual harassment and discrimination for workers. The Oregon Workplace Fairness Act (Senate Bill 726) is a multifaceted approach to combating workplace sexual harassment and discrimination and had its first public legislative hearing today. The reasons for this groundbreaking legislation are clear: At least one-in-four[i] women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, but 75%[ii] of women faced retaliation after reporting an incident. A staggering 94%[iii] of employees experiencing harassment do not file a formal complaint.
“The Oregon Workplace Fairness Act is a strong step forward in protecting Oregon’s workers,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. “The protections called for in this legislation are commonsense solutions to the institutional problems faced by workers who are victims of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.”
State Senator Kathleen Taylor (SD 21, Milwaukie) described what inspired her to support SB 726:
“We have seen a wave of activism and organizing through movements like Time’s Up and Me Too. It falls onto the shoulders of lawmakers to listen to those calls for change and to do something about it. This bill takes on a systemic problem and will create real change for Oregonians who experience sexual harassment and discrimination at work. It’s our duty as legislators to make this happen.”
State Senator Tim Knopp (SD 27, Bend) explained why he’s in support of SB 726:
“This bill is a long overdue modernization of the statutes that govern discrimination in the workplace. I’ve been a vocal member of the legislature as it relates to sexual harassment because Oregon workers, mainly women, should have an equal playing field in the work place. Currently, that’s not the case in all work places across the state. That’s why I’m hopeful Oregon’s businesses and worker advocates will join together to pass SB 726 this session.”
As written, the bill seeks to protect workers through the following methods:
Prevents employers from asking for nondisclosure agreements that relate to discrimination at the time of hiring, and during settlement and severance negotiations.
Prevents employers from requesting provisions that prevent the rehiring of previously discriminated-against employees during settlement agreements.
Extends Statute of Limitations for discrimination in employment situations to seven years.
Creates Individual Liability for owners, president and corporate officer when sexual harassment has occurred and goes unaddressed.
Directs BOLI to create policies and procedures for employers/employees that relate to sexual harassment.
Ensures that where employers have made a good faith determination that harassment has occurred, any severance given to the harasser, if an executive, is rendered unenforceable.