April 23, 2019

April 23, 2019

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April 22, 2019

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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.

© 2019, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.

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About this Author

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

206-693-7053
Associate

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 boutique IP firm. In this capacity, he focused on the intersection of IP and employment law, including appreciable experience in employee noncompete and trade secret disputes.

Kyle's litigation experience includes arguing motions at the trial court level and before the Washington State Court of Appeals. He has participated in federal jury trials and labor arbitrations, as well as taken and defended depositions in employment litigation.

Education

  • J.D., summa cum laude, Gonzaga University School of Law, 2015
  • B.A., magna cum laude, Washington State University, 2011

Admitted to Practice

  • Washington
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern and Western Districts of Washington
206-693-7057