2020 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training and Peer Training
This bill helps low-wage workers and advocates address high rates of workplace sexual harassment through new policy tools that build off the momentum of the Isolated Workers bill that passed in 2019. The focus is on legislation that mandates peer harassment training tailored to the needs of low wage workers.
Background: The #MeToo movement created an important platform for survivors of sexual violence, especially workplace sexual violence, to raise their voices and demand change. But, too often, the broader movement has left out the voices of workers in low-wage industries rife with sexual harassment, assault, and exploitative practices. Discrimination and systemic barriers have resulted in a disproportionate number of women, immigrants, and people of color working in these industries. Women in these industries particularly experience alarming rates of sexual harassment. For example, studies reveal that 80% of women farmworkers and 90% of women restaurant workers experience sexual harassment.
Workers in these industries are forced to endure this harassment because their employers prey on their vulnerabilities, such as their immigration status, their lack of job options, or the fact that they are living in poverty. Furthermore, low-wage workers often do not know their rights, due in large part to language barriers and cultural differences. Knowing what is inappropriate, illegal behavior is a powerful tool in ending workplace sexual harassment.
Legal Voice is providing support to a coalition of low wage worker groups and sexual violence prevention advocates who are focused on the tool of legislation that mandates harassment training in order to help eliminate harassment in the workplace. To advance that goal, the coalition is looking toward the strategy of peer training—where training is delivered by a trained peer who must be from the same industry as the workers being trained. This is a strategy that janitors in California have pioneered to bring high-quality sexual harassment training geared toward the needs of low wage workers—training that is specific to the job and that is culturally relevant and in the workers’ language.
Under a long-term comprehensive approach, Legal Voice and the coalitions aim to establish a mandatory harassment training requirement for all Washington employers regardless of size and a requirement that peer trainers conduct that training for workers in low wage industries. The comprehensive approach would include strong anti-retaliation enforcement protections if workers file a complaint or lawsuit after receiving such training.
Legal Voice and the Coalition aim to take initial steps toward this comprehensive strategy focused on peer training in the 2020 session that may include a budget proviso that enables proof of best practices and strong outcomes from peer training to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive bill to be pursued in 2021.
Budget proviso for Peer Training for Isolated Workers' Bill.
Partners: Our partners in this effort include the Washington Coalition to Eliminate Farmworker Sexual Harassment, UNITE HERE Local 8 (hotel workers), SEIU Local 6 (janitorial workers) UFCW 21 (grocery and retail workers), Casa Latina (domestic workers), the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP) and Sexual Violence Law Center.