California Senator Connie Leyva will propose legislation banning secret settlements in sexual harassment cases early 2018, Variety reports.
The legislation is in direct response to the dozens of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, who reportedly paid at least eight women to stay silent about their experiences. The agreements also required that each woman sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to protect Weinstein from further legal action.
"We really need to remove the curtain of secrecy about what’s happening,” Levya told Variety. "Ultimately that's what hurts victims and enables perpetrators to continue to do this and remain hidden."
These types of secret settlements aren't uncommon. The New York Times reported earlier this year that Bill O'Reilly settled sexual harassment claims outside of court with five different women. Fox News, through its parent company 21st Century Fox, funded O'Reilly's settlements to a total of $13 million. What's worse is that this isn't the first time Fox News has paid people out. Fortune reports that since just mid-2016, the company has contributed $45 million to sexual harassment settlements.
Though workplace laws are designed to discourage such agreements, there are a range of factors that allow people to get around the rules. For instance, Weinstein got away with his vile actions by allegedly threatening to ruin women's careers should they go public with their claims.
The issue, of course, is not singular to Hollywood. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that it received roughly 28,000 sexual harassment complaints in 2015. But even then, the agency said that 3 in 4 people don't report sexual harassment because they're afraid of retaliation, Newsweek reports.
Leyva's legislation, should it pass, could help protect and empower survivors of harassment and assault.
"I hope that we are finally at a point in our society to say, enough is enough," Leyva told Variety. "We need to make sure that women understand we are going to have each other's backs."
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