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New law helps protect sexual harassment reporters from lawsuits

The new year has brought more than one new California law that was helped along by the momentum of the #MeToo movement. The movement received notoriety largely because of well-known actresses who shared their stories of harassment and abuse. However, activists have focused on sexual assault, abuse and misconduct in all industries.

One of the new laws protects people who bring good faith accusations of inappropriate behavior from being sued for defamation. It also offers protections for employers who tell prospective employers checking someone's references that the person was accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. Specifically, it allows the disclosure "without malice [of] whether the employer would rehire an employee and whether or not a decision to not rehire is based on the employer's determination that the former employee engaged in sexual harassment."

One woman who faced such a lawsuit almost two decades ago told her story to a public radio station in Sacramento. She says that all she had done was ask her former manager not to use inappropriate language around an intern who had just started working for her organization. That manager sued her for defamation.

She says that the lawsuit caused her to second guess whether she had done the right thing by speaking to that manager about his behavior. "I just wanted him to act more professional in front of a possibly impressionable young woman." Even all these years later, she doesn't want her name to be made public because of how potential employers might view her actions.

The woman says of the new law, "You either want people to work in a healthier work environment or you don't. If you do, then you take out the obstacles that stop people from trying to make their work environment better."

If you're involved in a legal dispute for speaking up about or reporting sexual harassment or abuse, it's essential to know how this new law impacts you. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance.

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