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Window For Sexual Harassment Complaints Could Widen Under New Bills

Rich Pedroncelli / AP / File

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, speaks at the Capitol Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP / File

Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman is frustrated with the one-year window that victims of sexual harassment have to file complaints with the state.

“We allow a longer statute of limitations for a fender bender than we do for people to file claims of serious sexual harassment and discrimination in housing and in the workplace,” she said. “That can’t be right.”

Friedman, along with Democratic Assemblywomen Eloise Gomez Reyes and Republican Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, has co-authored a new bill that would give employees three years, rather than just one, to take their sexual harassment complaints to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Jessica Stender, an attorney with San Francisco nonprofit Equal Rights Advocates, said many women who survive sexual harassment at work — particularly low-wage workers — are “not even aware that the clock has begun to run.”

“[They] face obstacles such as trauma, lack of information about their rights, and fear of retaliation,” she said.

The bill applies to all employees who want to go through the department, including people filing complaints against lawmakers.

After a complaint is filed, the employment and housing department investigates it and can assist the two parties in reaching a settlement, whether through a mediation process or through litigation.

Reyes has also put forward a bill that would require all California businesses with more than 50 employees — including the Legislature — to keep records of employee sexual harassment complaints for 10 years. There currently is no universal record-keeping requirement for this type of complaint.

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