California Janitor Sexual Harassment Bill Vetoed, Door Still Open for Further Action

A bill that would have expanded California sexual harassment training for janitorial companies and their uniquely vulnerable workers was vetoed by the governor, who urged sponsoring lawmakers to give the state and employers more time to fully implement the 2016 janitorial worker sexual harassment legislation, which is still getting off the ground.Los Angeles sexual harassment

Approval of AB 2079 would have meant that required janitorial firms provide sexual harassment training for supervisors and employees that would extend far beyond watching a boiler-plate video and signing a form. They’d hear from actual survivors of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in the California janitorial industry. They would also be given encouragement and more information on their legal options to hold abusers and workplaces accountable.

Although some of the most highly-publicized accounts of sexual assault and sexual harassment spurred the #metoo and #TimesUp began have been told by employers in elite industries (proving sexual harassment and abuse are pervasive everywhere), Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys and other worker advocates know janitorial workers, agricultural employees, home health care and hospitality workers are at high risk. The primary risk factor is power disparity between victim and abuser. Women, those earning low wages, people of color, immigrants – all of these individuals start off at higher risk. Immigrants especially can face language and cultural barriers that can lead to fear of deportation, cultural barriers and a misunderstanding of their rights and what will happen if these offenses are reported. Now factor in the isolation, overnight shifts and lack of regulatory oversight that are so integral to the industry, and it’s not hard to see why these employees are at such high risk for abuse.

Many janitorial workers in Los Angeles work overnight cleaning office buildings. There are no other workers around, no cameras and often not even other janitorial employees to intervene. Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys know these workers not only lack protection, but a solid understanding of their legal options and/ or fear that exercising those options will have more consequences to them than their abuser. That’s why the peer-to-peer training component of AB 2079 would have been so valuable.

Just this year, PBS Frontline reported the largest janitorial firm in the U.S. employing 70,000 workers nationally was facing brand new allegations that management continues to ignore sexual abuse of its employees. Since 2000, the federal government has sued the company three times for not doing enough to keep workers safe from sexual violence. Each of those cases concluded with the firm vowing to do better. (The same has been promised in sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuits filed by workers.) Yet the sexual harassment and sexual assault lawsuits continue to pile up. Most recently, three female janitors in a Southern California office allege repeated and violent sexual harassment by supervisors exploiting power. The victims report these offenses up the chain of command – only to have nothing happen. They others suffer the same harassment and abuse, yet fear losing their jobs so stay quiet.

The California Property Service Workers Protection Act of 2016, requires all janitorial service companies with one or more employees to register with the state and renew that registration annually or face fines. The idea is to bring these companies out of the shadows, have them operating more above-board and impose accountability for everything from sexual harassment to wage theft. The law also mandates sexual harassment training once every two years, starting Jan. 1, 2019.

Proponents of AB 2079 , however, insisted it was necessary to bridge the outreach gaps to protect workers at high risk for sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

Janitorial workers who have suffered abuse or harassment on-the-job in Los Angeles can contact our experienced Los Angeles employment attorneys for a free initial consultation to discuss your rights.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Governor’s Veto AB 2079, Janitorial Workers Sexual Violence and Harassment Prevention Training, Sept. 10, 2018

More Blog Entries:

Secret Settlements in California Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Now Banned, Dec. 6, 2018, Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog