Lorena Gonzalez Continues Fight for #MeToo Legislation that Helps Working Class Women

Monday, February 3, 2020

AB 2043 Protects and Empowers Low-Wage Workers Abused on the Job

SACRAMENTO – (Monday, Feb. 3, 2020) – California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) is again taking on the issue of workplace sexual harassment that harms low-wage, private sector workers by re-introducing legislation to hold businesses responsible for sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination against contracted or temporary employees under their control and supervision.

“Workers who experience sexual harassment on the job are afraid to report that abuse because they know the law is not on their side,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. Assembly Bill 2043, also known as Sandra’s Law, would require a company to have the same responsibility for all workers who are provided by a contractor in cases of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination if they work in the company’s usual course on the company’s premises or worksite.

The bill was inspired by the story of Sandra Pezqueda, a subcontracted dishwasher at the Terranea Resort in Southern California who was fired after reporting sexual harassment by her supervisor. Sandra filed a since-settled lawsuit against the resort and the staffing agency that placed her there, spoke publicly about her experiences, and ultimately inspired multiple other women to come forward.

“I feel happy that by me breaking the silence more women have spoken out with their own stories,” Sandra Pezqueda said. “They had remained silent, but by seeing me speak out, they have found the courage to speak out too."

Many subcontracted workers are vulnerable to rampant harassment in their workplaces. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 3 million people now work for temporary employment firms like the one that employed Sandra Pezqueda.

“The transformative changes driven by the #MeToo movement have not made a difference in the lives of all women. Janitors, hotel and restaurant workers, service workers and immigrants continue to be exploited and harassed at work while their employers deny responsibility,” added Assemblywoman Gonzalez. “Workplace protections should extend to all women, no matter their economic standing, access to an attorney or level of existing power.”

An estimated 60 percent of workers have experienced sexual harassment while on the job but have not reported it. Not only does lack of awareness of their rights prevent these workers from reporting harassment, they might also fear losing their jobs out of retaliation for filing a complaint.

"Sexual harassment is not an abstract issue for our members. Nor are the obstacles women workers contend with as they stand up for themselves and hold corporations accountable,”  Ada Briceño, co-president of the Southern California hotel and food service workers' union UNITE HERE Local 11 and chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, said. “Our union is proud to offer our strongest support for Assembly Bill 2043, Sandra’s Law.”

For questions on AB 2043 or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos (209) 658-7617.