The Use and Limits of Confidential Claims When Claims for Harassment Are Made

In 2018, California passed several laws that govern the use of confidential settlement agreements involving workplace harassment. One of these include the following:

SB 820

Prior to the effective date of this law, prior California law prohibited provisions in California settlement agreements that prevented the disclosure of facts establishing a civil action for certain specific sexual offenses. The prior law also prohibited a court from entering a court order in these types of cases that would restrict the disclosure of the underlying factual information. Agreements that include these provisions would be considered void as a matter of law and public policy if they were entered on or after January 1, 2017.

The Senate bill adds that settlement agreements (involving sexual assault, sexual harassment, or harassment or discrimination based on sex) could not prevent disclosure of the facts – when the claims is filed in a “civil or administrative action.” The law applies to settlement agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2019. It would further void these unlawful provisions. The new law also provides that a court can look to the pleadings, court records, and any other court findings to determine the factual foundation.

In cases that don’t involve a government agency or public official, the bill would create an exception “for a provision that shields the identity of the claimant and all facts that could lead to the discovery of his or her identity, if the provision is included within the settlement agreement at the request of the claimant.”

The law does allow that the amount of the settlement can be kept confidential. The law doesn’t apply to settlements entered into prior to any litigation.

At the California Law Offices of Stephen Danz and Associates, our employee rights lawyers represent workers who have been discharged, discriminated against, or mistreated due to sexual harassment or sexual misconduct in the workplace. For help with any sexual harassment claim, please call us at 877-789-9707 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.