OLYMPIA—The House of Representatives passed ESSB 5258, a bill to prevent sexual assault and harassment for isolated workers including janitors, security officers, and hotel housekeepers. ESSB 5258, also known as the Sexual Harassment Protection Act, passed the House with a vote of 57-35.
The Sexual Harassment Protection Act requires employers of certain isolated workers to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees including supervisors, a list of relevant resources for workers, and a panic button to each worker that meets certain criteria, like spending most of their working hours alone.
Workplace sexual violence and harassment are particularly acute in industries where women work alone, after hours, and without direct supervision. Language barriers, heavy workloads, and uncertain immigration status can create power imbalances in the workplace that create additional layers of vulnerability. A recent review of the bill by the State Board of Health in collaboration with the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities found strong evidence that decreasing workplace sexual harassment and assault will improve health outcomes and impact health inequities for these workers.
You can read a summary of the report here: Executive Summary: Health Impact Review of ESSB 5258
You can read the full report here: Full Review: Health Impact Review of ESSB 5258
Zenia Javalera, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU6 Property Services NW, issued the following statement:
“The courage it takes to speak up against sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace cannot be overstated. When you’re a low-wage worker and your family is dependent on your job, when you’re a woman, when you’re not from this country, when you’re undocumented⎯all of these things conspire to make workers feel like they have to be quiet and endure.
“Janitors and security officers in our union took a leap of faith when they started sharing their personal experiences with workplace sexual harassment in the Senate, the House, and in the media. The passage of this bill is a strong signal to them that speaking up is the right thing to do.
“This bill will work to educate the entire janitorial and security industries here in Washington on what sexual harassment is, and what to do about it. I want to commend my union sisters, whose bravery will not only raise standards of safety and respect in their own workplaces, but for non-union workers, too. I also want to commend the lawmakers who had the courage and moral clarity to listen to these women’s voices.”