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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Sexual harassment issues in California startups spark bill

Legislation has come a long way in protecting vulnerable classes of employees from abuse and mistreatment. If an employee finds herself being harassed by another employee or supervisor within her company, she can take the issue to HR and to court if need be, since sexual harassment is prohibited in the workplace. The relationship between investors and startup founders isn't as clear when it comes to harassment, however, and this gray area has led to the development of a new California bill. 

Since a founder is not technically an employee of the venture capitalist investor, when she experiences harassment on the job, she isn't able to report the violation to human resources. This leaves many founders without recourse when facing inappropriate behavior at work. But one lawmaker wants to change this.

The legislator simply wants to amend current state law to add in the job title of investor to the list of persons who face penalties if found to be guilty of targeting workers sexually. Many recent scandals have emerged prompting the legislation. Women in tech have started to share their stories about abuses they experienced in Silicon Valley startups. 

If the new bill passes, it would add another layer of protection in California law for victims of sexual harassment. The increased media attention already has some firms changing policies. Any person who is a victim of sexual harassment on the job is encouraged to report the abuse and take steps to end the behavior. For some individuals, this means contacting an attorney to explore options for seeking justice. 

Source: mercurynews.com, "New bill would crack down on VC sexual harassment", Marisa Kendall, Sept. 6, 2017

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