Effort to end secret settlements needs tweak to comply with public access laws

In response to the “We Said Enough” movement, Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino Hills) is championing a bill to make secrecy in sexual harassment lawsuits a thing of the past.

The bill, SB 820, is sponsored by the Consumer Attorneys of California, and would bar parties from secretly settling sexual harassment and retaliation cases to prevent the problem of victims being gagged from telling their stories.

One provision of the bill is problematic however. It provides that a victim can require secrecy in any settlement for sexual harassment. If applied to government agencies, this provision would give individuals the ability to veto the release of a settlement agreement in which a public agency is a party. This would overturn longstanding public records and open meeting principles which prevent government agencies from secretly settling cases.

CNPA is working with the author and bill’s sponsor to address its concerns. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the bill on Tuesday.