No time off for harassment victims to seek counsel

illustration of harassment

For the second year in a row, lawmakers have rejected a bill meant to help victims of sexual harassment by allowing them time off from work to seek legal services and counseling.

Assembly Bill 628 would have given workers dealing with sexual harassment the same protections that the law already gives victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It also would have applied the provision to public employers including the Legislature, which was rocked by a series of sexual harassment scandals in 2017-2018. Lawmakers introduced dozens of bills inspired by the #MeToo movement last year, including one very similar to the latest legislative casualty.

This year’s version, by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, failed on the Assembly floor Wednesday when 44 legislators—including more than 20 Democrats—voted against it or withheld their votes. The California Chamber of Commerce lobbied against the bill, arguing it would have expanded the definition of sexual harassment, potentially complicating other anti-harassment policies, and required employers to give workers an unlimited amount of time off. The Chamber deemed it a “job killer,” a label the employer group slaps on bills it most wants to kill.

—Laurel Rosenhall