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#MeToo Comes to Washington State

In response to the #MeToo movement, lawmakers in several states are introducing bills aimed at curbing workplace sexual harassment and addressing how complaints and resolutions are handled by employers. Washington is no exception, and the Washington state Legislature has passed three bills focused on new laws relating to sexual harassment. Each bill is briefly summarized below.

Public Disclosure of Sexual Harassment Claims

Senate Bill 5996 prohibits an employer from preventing its employees from publicly disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace. However, the bill states that it does not prevent confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements, even as they relate to sexual assault or harassment allegations. This bill passed the state legislature and is awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature.

Immediate Prohibition on Confidential Arbitration Provisions in Employment Contracts 

Senate Bill 6313 voids provisions of employment contracts that require employees to waive their right to “publiclypursue” a discrimination complaint under Washington or federal law. More importantly, the bill voids provisions of employment agreements that “require an employee to resolve claims of discrimination in a dispute resolution process that is confidential” In other words, employment agreements requiring confidential arbitration are void under this law. The law, if signed by Governor Inslee, is likely to be challenged on federal preemption grounds. This bill also passed the state legislature and awaits Governor Inslee’s signature.

Best Practices and Model Policies

Senate Bill 6471 requires the Washington Human Rights Commission to draft best practices and model policies regarding workplace sexual harassment. Like the aforementioned bills, Senate Bill 6471 passed the state legislature and is awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature.

© 2023, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 86

About this Author

Adam Pankratz, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Mr. Pankratz represents corporations and management in a myriad of employment-related and complex commercial matters, including litigation involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wage and hour, wrongful termination, ADA and FMLA leave issues, and other matters in state and federal courts and administrative agencies. Mr. Pankratz has experience successfully representing employers in executive termination, non-compete and unfair competition disputes.  Mr. Pankratz has extensive experience representing employers both locally and nationally on various employment...


Kyle is an advisor and employment litigator in Ogletree Deakins' Seattle office. He represents employers in state and federal courts, as well as before administrative agencies.

Kyle has experience handling employers against alleged claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, constructive discharge, and wrongful termination. 

Kyle also has experience in employee non-compete, non-disclosure, non-solicitation, and misappropriation of trade secret claims. Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Kyle practiced at a...