By Sophia Bollag, Associated Press
(AP) — Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson joined California Democrats on Wednesday to promote a bill aimed at protecting workers from required nondisclosure agreements and arbitration.
The bill would prohibit employers from forcing people into nondisclosure agreements related to sexual misconduct in order to get or keep a job.
It also would bar employers from requiring forced arbitration agreements, which can compel employees to settle workplace complaints instead of going to court.
The bill, AB3080, would not prevent existing arbitration or nondisclosure agreements from being enforced.
Carlson said such agreements protect sexual harassers.
"I believe that forced arbitration is not only unjust, it is un-American," said Carlson, who is registered as a political independent. "I hope legislators from both sides of the aisle will get to Gov. Brown's office and ask him to sign this bill."
Carlson made headlines in 2016 when she sued Fox News Channel CEO Roger Ailes, alleging she was fired from Fox News for rejecting his sexual advances. Ailes, who died last year, said her contract prohibited her from going public until both sides first tried closed-door arbitration. Ailes was ultimately forced out of the network because of her allegations.
Forced arbitration particularly hurts low-wage workers who experience a serious power imbalance in the workplace, said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who wrote the bill.
She said the forced arbitration ban would cover all workplace complaints, including those related to discrimination, sexual misconduct and wage theft.
"It's time to shine a light on this, and we think AB3080 is the tool that can do that," the San Diego Democrat said.
The bill is part of a flurry of legislation introduced this year after dozens of women went public with stories of sexual misconduct at the California Capitol. Three state lawmakers have resigned in the past seven months amid allegations of sexual harassment.
The bill must pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee before it can advance to the Assembly floor. It would require approval from the Assembly, Senate and the governor.
The California Chamber of Commerce has labeled the bill a "job killer" and argues it would make handling workplace complaints more difficult.
"AB3080 will create more litigation, significant delays in the resolutions of disputes and higher costs for employers and employees," the group and other interest groups wrote in a letter voicing opposition to the bill.
As part of the effort to advance the bill, Gonzalez Fletcher said she convinced the speaker of the Assembly to issue the chamber's first subpoena in more than a decade to allow a witness to testify in support.
The witness said she wanted to testify about a required arbitration agreement at her previous employer but could only do so under subpoena because she feared she would be sued otherwise.