#MeToo Movement Having an Impact in Legislatures

By Crime and Justice News July 31, 2018

The #MeToo movement has touched almost every industry in the past year, and state legislatures are under growing pressure to curb sexual assault and harassment in private workplaces and in their own chambers. Has the reckoning had an impact on the law? Early signs point to yes, Stateline reports. Resignations have been plentiful as credible allegations of sexual harassment have toppled at least 32 lawmakers. Legislators have pursued broader changes. Some states have placed limits on nondisclosure agreements (NDAs). Legislators also have cited the #MeToo movement in passing legislation to improve the testing of rape kits and to extend the statute of limitations for victims who want to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. Nearly every legislature has reexamined its own policies for dealing with workplace harassment.

Tweaking nondisclosure agreements to limit how they may be used for harassment claims is an area of law previously untouched by lawmakers, yet six states (Arizona, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington) now have something on the books. While nondisclosure agreements have been a new and popular target in state legislatures this year, approaches to curbing their use have varied widely.None of the new laws ban the use of nondisclosure agreements for sexual abuse and harassment outright; proponents say some victims might want to protect their privacy after an incident. Some laws do bar using the agreements at hiring, and others ensure that the agreements can’t stop victims from coming forward in criminal proceedings.