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New Law Will Protect California Employees From Defamation Lawsuits After Reporting Sexual Harassment

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

This is part of our series on new California laws taking effect in 2019.

A new California law taking effect Jan. 1 will protect workers from being sued for defamation when they accuse someone of inappropriate behavior, as long as they do so in good faith.

This happened to a woman named Sandy nearly 20 years ago when she got a knock on her door.

“It was somebody who said they had to speak with me and I was served with papers,” Sandy said.

Sandy had asked her manager to stop using inappropriate language in order to protect a new intern, and now she was being sued.  

“It clearly said that I was the defendant,” she said, “and that my previous manager was suing me for defamation.”  

The lawsuit made her second guess her decision to come forward. Even now, she asked that her last name not be used out of concern it will affect her future employment.

“Why did I take us down this path?” Sandy said. “Because I didn't I didn't want any of this to happen. I just wanted him to act more professional in front of possibly impressionable young woman.”

The experience made her realize something.

“You either want people to work in a healthier work environment or you don't,” she said. “If you do then you take out the obstacles that stop people from trying to make their work environment better."

The new law aims to do just that, protect workers like Sandy from being sued for defamation when they accuse someone of bad behavior. The measure also protects employers from litigation if they say during a reference check that a former employee engaged in sexual harassment.  

Two other laws spurred by the Me Too movement will ban non disclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases and prohibit employers from forcing new employees or those seeking raises to waive their right to file legal claims.

 New California Laws 2019Me Too

Nadine Sebai

Former Temporary State Government Reporter

Nadine Sebai was Capital Public Radio’s temporary state government reporter. Nadine is also a co-editor of Local Matters, a weekly newsletter showcasing investigative and watchdog news stories from local publications across the country.  Read Full Bio 

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