August 30, 2016 (SACRAMENTO) A bill by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to establish janitorial workforce protections against sexual harassment and create a janitorial contractor registration system was approved by the Assembly on a bipartisan 60-7 vote today. It will now be submitted to the Governor.
Under Assembly Bill 1978, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) would create required sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training materials and require employers to post and display a notice with information regarding the laws. DIR would also create a janitorial contractor registry which will add transparency and increase accountability, similar to garment manufacturers, farm labor contractors, and the car washing and polishing industry.
“We cannot allow these women to become targets for sexual violence by neglecting their working conditions and basic safety on the job,” said Gonzalez. “AB 1978 will ensure these women – too often unseen while working alone at night – get the protection from sexual violence that they deserve.”
The recent “Rape on the Night Shift” investigation series by PBS Frontline, Univision, KQED, the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley and “Reveal” from the Center for Investigative Reporting highlighted the risks faced by janitors who often work alone at night. Recently, a lawsuit by 21 women alleging that the ABM janitorial company failed to protect them from sexual harassment and assault resulted in a $5.8 million settlement in 2010.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 8 percent of all rapes occur while the victim is working, and that about 50 workers a day are sexually assaulted or raped on the job. Rape and sexual assault were reported to police at the lowest percentage (24 percent) when compared to other violent crimes in the workplace. Research has found that more than one third of these workplace victims lost more than 10 days of work after the crime.
AB 1978 is coauthored by Assemblymembers Nora Campos (D-San Jose), Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas), Cristina Garcia (D-Downey), Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Freddie Rodriguez (D-Chino), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Tony Thurmond (D-Oakland), and Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), and Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose). It is sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) of California and Equal Rights Advocates.