#MeToo Bills to Help Working Class Women Pass First Legislative Committee

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

SACRAMENTO -- (Wed. March 6, 2019) -- Two bills authored by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D - San Diego) to better protect working women from sexual harassment on the job were approved by the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment on Wednesday.

“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. “AB 170 will stop employers from dodging their responsibility to ensure a safe work environment, and AB 171 will protect workers from retaliation when they speak out about workplace abuse.”

AB 170, also known as Sandra’s Law, would require a company to share the legal 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 dishwasher at a Southern California resort hotel who sought legal recourse after being terminated by her contracted employer for reporting sexual harassment by her supervisor. Sandra eventually won a settlement in the case, but the resort continues to deny any wrongdoing and there have been no updates to company policies or procedures. Contracted workers remain vulnerable to rampant harassment at the resort hotel.

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.

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.

In the case that an employee faces unfair treatment or is fired following harassment, AB 171 would establish a rebuttable presumption of unlawful retaliation if an employer in any way discriminates against the employee within the 90-day period after the complaint is filed.

AB 170 passed Wednesday’s committee on a 5-1 vote (with one vote not recorded) and AB 171 was approved on a 6-1 vote. The two bills move forward to be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on March 26.

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

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, and Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez visit https://a80.asmdc.org/