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State senator to introduce tech industry anti-harassment bill

On Aug. 17, a California state senator announced her intention to introduce legislation aimed at reducing sexual harassment between investors and entrepreneurs. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said she would work with the tech industry in hopes of pushing for the bill’s passage after the reconvening of the legislature in January.

The bill is a response to a number of media reports in which female entrepreneurs reported harassment from venture capitalists. On Aug. 16, the organization Women Who Tech released the results of a survey in which 53 percent of women who worked in tech said they had faced harassment. Furthermore, 65 percent of women who founded companies said they were offered funding in exchange for sex. The scope of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act would expand under Jackson’s bill to prohibit this type of harassment.

The act specifically names certain professions in relation to sexual harassment including physicians, landlords, teachers and attorneys. The updated law as envisioned by Jackson would include investors in that list. The executive director of Equal Rights Advocates said the bill would send a strong message throughout the industry.

While both state and federal law protects Californians from harassment in the workplace, there may still be obstacles for employees who face this type of behavior. Some harassment may be subtle and difficult to prove. People might also be concerned about their jobs since although retaliation is not permitted, the impact of reporting harassment on a person’s career may also be subtle. Therefore, a person who is dealing with unwanted sexual advances might want to talk to an attorney even if the workplace has a system in place for these types of issues. An attorney may be able to help a person document the situation for greater protection.

Source: Tech Wire, “Anti-Harassment Bill to Seek Tech Industry Input,” Samantha Young, Aug. 18, 2017