SCR 102: No Taxpayer Funded Hush Money
The Capitol “We Said Enough” movement, spurred by a letter signed by 140 women working in and around the legislature, has denounced abusive and harassing behaviors they’ve experienced from political elites in Sacramento and demanded reforms to protect victims.
This momentum led to the successful passage of Assemblywoman Melendez’s AB 403, the Legislative Employee Whistleblower Protection Act. Asm. Melendez’s efforts to pass this bill for the last four years had been sidelined by the majority party. But Governor Brown signed AB 403 in early 2018, and Capitol employees now have the same rights and protections as other state employees do against retaliation if they come forward about abuse or harassment.
However, another institutional mechanism has concealed the bad behavior of serial harassers and contributed to an environment that allows it to continue: confidentially agreements. In order to settle claims of sexual harassment quietly and without embarrassment to “the Institution,” the Rules Committee staff of each house of the legislature, under their respective leadership, have entered into “non-disclosure agreements” (NDAs) to prohibit either the accuser or the accused from publically discussing the allegations.
Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 102 would prohibit the Senate or Assembly Rules Committees from negotiating or signing confidentiality agreements, including a severance agreement settling a claim for sexual harassment or abuse that contains a confidentiality provision.
In addition, SCR 102 would prohibit the use of taxpayer money to enforce this type of confidentiality provision. Thus, the Senate and Assembly Rules committees will no longer be allowed to sweep grievous conduct under the rug.
Past non-disclosure agreements have made it nearly impossible to discipline predators and created even more victims of sexual harassment. We must hold our institution to a higher standard and promote a culture free of abuse and harassment.
The public has a right to know about any new harassment investigations and their outcome, and not one more dime of public money should be used to enforce previous NDAs.