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Government & Politics

Hogan Signs Bill Cracking Down on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Overshadowed by all the internal drama and debate this legislative session over sexual harassment in the Maryland State House – and how to police it – was broader legislation designed to protect employees throughout the state against sexual harassment and assault. The bill prohibits companies from requiring employees to waive their rights regarding sexual harassment prior to an incident. Employers who try to enforce such nondisclosure agreements would be liable for the employee’s attorney’s fees, and the legislation prohibits any employers’ attempts to retaliate against workers for refusing to waive those rights. Gov.  Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) signed The Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018 into law on Tuesday. “With the emergence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, survivors of sexual assault, abuse and harassment have stepped out of the shadows,” said Sen. Craig J. Zucker (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the legislation with Del. Kriselda Valderrama (D-Prince George’s). “This legislation will serve as a national model ensuring that Maryland is at the forefront for protecting employees against sexual harassment.”  Del. Kriselda Valderrama  The sponsors said employers often protect themselves from liability by requiring that employees waive their rights to the courts or enter into confidentiality agreements on sexual harassment and other bad behavior. “This bill is an important part of Maryland’s efforts to protect working women and men from sexual harassment and shine the light on the Harvey Weinsteins of our state,” said Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a supporter of the bill. The bill would also require companies with more than 50 employees to report to the state Commission on Civil Rights the number of sexual harassment cases the company has settled, the number of settlements made containing a confidentiality clause, and the number of times the company has paid for a settlement against the same employee over a 10-year period. “This new law will put decisions regarding confidentiality of sexual harassment reports where they belong, in the hands of the victims,” Valderrama said. [email protected]