UPDATE: Washington State Legislature Passes Sexual Harassment Prevention Bill for Isolated Workers

OLYMPIA—The bill to protect isolated janitors, security officers, and hotel housekeepers from sexual harassment and assault has passed in Olympia. The House and Senate concurred on the final version of Senate Bill 5258, and the bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.

The sexual harassment prevention act will provide isolated workers with sexual harassment prevention training, a list of resources for seeking help, and a panic button to keep them safe on the job.

“This bill will offer workers more protection. We need education in these industries so that everyone knows where to draw the line on inappropriate behavior. This will empower workers who have experienced harassment to speak up, and will help us stop people who are abusing their power.” —Ambar Arellano, SEIU6 Janitor

Washington State will now join California and Oregon in passing some of the most forward-thinking anti-sexual harassment measures for janitors in the country. The bill aims to curb the high incidence of sexual violence in workplaces where women work alone, after hours, and without direct supervision.

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 the report here: https://sboh.wa.gov/Portals/7/Doc/HealthImpactReviews/HIR-2019-15-SB5258.pdf?ver=2019-03-11-163534-137

“We know that a lot of workers in these industries are in survival mode. When you don’t know your rights and you depend on your job to put food on the table, you might be in a mindset to endure anything. This bill will send a signal to everyone in these industries that workers don’t have to just endure—they have the right to be safe and respected on the job, too.” —Zenia Javalera, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU6 Property Services NW