Georgia HB 1211, introduced March 5th, is a bi-partisan effort to extend protections against workplace sexual harassment to women who work for employers of less than 15 people. 9to5 Executive Director Leng Leng Chancey spoke in support of this bill in House Committee. Here is her testimony:
My name is Leng Leng Chancey and I am the National Executive Director of 9to5, National Association of working women. I am pleased to speak on behalf of our organization in support of HB 1121. This bill is a important first step in preventing and combatting workplace sexual harassment in Georgia.
9to5, National Association of Working Women is a national membership organization dedicated to achieving justice for working women and their families. We have been hearing from women about the devastating and wide spread incidence of workplace sexual harassment since our founding in 1974. The Georgia chapter was founded in 1982. We are proud of our role in the movement to win changes in law, social and workplace expectations, and to have supported the increasing willingness of women to step forward and challenge workplace harassment over the past 45 years.
Sexual harassment is an abuse of power used to exert control over individuals with less workplace power or status. It reinforces gender inequality. It’s a huge issue for women in low-wage jobs, women of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, formerly incarcerated workers. It occurs in all types of businesses, at all levels of the employment ladder, but its greatest impact is on those who are already most impacted by inequality and injustice and have fewer available resources or support.
However in Georgia there is currently no law making sexual harassment illegal – or preventable – in companies with less than 15 employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which was expanded to include sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination through court challenges in the 1980’s and 90’s – applies only to employers of 15 or more workers. This leaves a huge segment of our state’s workforce with no protection.
In addition to providing a legal remedy for sexual harassment for those employed in companies with more than 4 but less than 16 workers, this bill provides additional legal recourse for people who are experiencing sexual harassment and are currently covered by federal law. HB 1121 extends the statute of limitations from the 180 days provided under federal law to one year. It also provides a private right of action, allowing those who have experienced sexual harassment to sue their harasser – and their employer if they fail to remedy the situation – in state court.
9to5 staff have answered hundreds of calls from Georgia women about sexual harassment through our Job Survival Helpline. We’ve trained hundreds of women – and men – in community workshops, corporate and non-profit training sessions, and college classes about steps to take at work and through the legal system to stop and prevent it.
9to5 supports HB 1121, as an important step in recognizing that all workers deserve legal protections to allow them to combat and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.