Marylanders will get an idea of how many sexual harassment claims are made among the larger employers in the state and have more protections to make sexual harassment claims under a bill passed by the General Assembly this session.
The Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018, which awaits Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature, prevents employers from asking employees to waive their future rights to come forward with sexual harassment complaints.
The bill also requires employers with 50 employees to disclose how many settlements the employer has made after a sexual harassment allegation, how many times an employer has settle allegations made against the same employee and the number of settlements that included non-disclosure provisions.
“Maryland will now lead the way on this issue where men and women who are going seek employment in the state of Maryland won’t have to fear that their job would be in jeopardy if they disclose sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Sen. Craig Zucker, D-Montgomery County, the bill’s Senate sponsor, on Wednesday. “This could serve as a national model for other states to to follow.”
The final bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 136-1 in the House of Delegates.
The bill drew support from both women’s rights advocates, including the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, as well as the pro-business Maryland Chamber of Commerce during the legislative session.
“It contains some compromises but overall we’re pleased it passed and we’re looking forward to learning the results of the survey,” said Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, on Wednesday.
The surveys will “help us learn how many Harvey Weinstein’s Maryland has and give us information about what public policies to pursue in the future,” she said.
The survey provision was originally written as a reporting requirement in the original bill cross-filed in both chambers. But the House Economic Matters committee eliminated that requirement in House Bill 1596, a move that disappointed bill advocates including Jordan who called it “the heart of the bill.
The Senate version preserved that requirement in Senate Bill 1010. The two chambers reached an agreement in conference committee that included biennial surveys for employers with 50 or more employees.
The state Commission on Civil Rights will collect the results, which will be displayed in aggregate online without identifying the employers. Individuals interested in looking at results about repeat offenders can do so by looking at the records at the commission’s office. Those documents will show the employer’s name but will not identify the victim or the alleged perpetrator.
The reporting requirement has a sunset provision, making it active until 2023.
The survey will also show if the legislature’s actions lead to more accountability and a decrease in the number of sexual harassment incidents, Zucker said.
“I think it’s important for us to gather as much information as we can to give us tools to resolve this issue that should have been resolved yesterday,” he said.