Statement from Oregon AFL-CIO President, Tom Chamberlain
Salem, OR – For too long, workers – especially women and workers of color – have faced discrimination and harassment in the workplace. At least one out of every four women in the workplace have experienced sexual harassment (1), and as many as 94% of employees experiencing harassment do not file a formal complaint (2). Of the women who did report harassment, 75% experienced retaliation (3). Now, Oregon is one step closer to reforming the way discrimination and harassment is dealt with in workplaces across the state.
On April 9, the Senate Committee on Workforce passed Senate Bill 726, the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act, with bipartisan support. Today, State Senators have stood with Oregon’s workers, passing the Bill by a vote of 23-6.
The Oregon Workplace Fairness Act, SB 726 takes several important steps to protect workers from harassment and discrimination:
Prevents employers from asking for nondisclosure agreements that relate to discrimination at the time of hiring, and during settlement and severance negotiations;
Prevents employers from requesting provisions that prevent the rehiring of previously discriminated-against employees during settlement, severance, and separation agreements;
Extends Statute of Limitations for discrimination in employment situations to 5 years;
Directs the Bureau of Labor and Industries to create policies and procedures for employers/employees that relate to discrimination;
Ensures that where employers have made a good faith determination that discrimination has occurred, any severance given to the harasser, if an executive, may be rendered unenforceable.
“It is appalling that a woman or other vulnerable population could risk losing their livelihood should they choose to report or seek remedy for harassment, discrimination, or sexual assault in the workplace,” said State Senator Kathleen Taylor. “An inherent power imbalance exists between an employer and employee in these situations and Senate Bill 726 works to address that imbalance, and make certain victims know-well the options available should someone perpetrate one of these horrific acts against them.”
“Addressing workplace discrimination and harassment is a matter of basic fairness. I’m proud to have worked on this critical legislation. It’s time for a culture change in how workers, especially women are treated in the workplace and Senate Bill 726 is a crucial component to making that a reality,” said State Senator Tim Knopp.
The Oregon Workplace Fairness Act, Senate Bill 726, is a critical change in policy to ensure workers who experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace can seek remedy. As Oregon’s Labor Movement, we look forward to working with elected representatives to continue to guarantee a more fair and just economy for all workers. Senate Bill 726 now heads to the Oregon House of Representatives.