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California governor signs bill protecting sexual harassment whistleblowers

[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] on Monday signed new workplace conduct legislation [AB 403, PDF] into law to protect whistleblowers who disclose workplace harassment or abuse in the capitol.

While the California labor code already had protections against retaliation for whistleblowers, AB 403 increases potential penalties. According to the bill, any "individual who intentionally retaliates against a legislative employee for having made a protected disclosure is subject to a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) and imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year."

This bill was authored by Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez [official website], who first introduced the bill in 2014. Variations of the bill have passed through the General Assembly but were repeatedly unable to pass through the Senate. This bill was passed under an urgency basis allowing it to go into effect upon Brown's signature.

This measure was passed with newfound momentum against workplace harassment from the #MeToo movement. In addition, legislative leaders presented documents over the passed 11 years outlining complaints and investigations into sexual misconduct by top lawmakers.

In addition to the #MeToo movement, nearly 150 women in California politics signed a letter [text] seeking to raise awareness of sexual harassment in the capitol. This letter has fueled for similar legislation around the country.

Supporters of the legislation acknowledge that granting protections to accusers is an important step in declining the prevalence of workplace environments for employees.

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