Senate Moves to Protect Whistleblowers from Retaliation

Thursday, February 01, 2018

SACRAMENTO – California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement today on the state Senate’s passage of the second of two whistleblower protection bills.

“Today, the Senate passed the second of two whistleblower protection bills to better shield Legislative staffers and lobbyists who report sexual harassment and other illegal activities from retaliation. Together, SB 419 by Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and AB 403 by Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) make a strong bi-partisan, bi-cameral statement: Sexual harassment at the state Capitol will not be tolerated and those who attempt to silence victims or witnesses will be punished.

“For years I have worked to prevent sexual assault, striving for a generational shift in our culture with 2014 legislation that created the first-in-the-nation affirmative consent law on our college campuses, followed up with mandatory curriculum training about sexual assault and healthy relationships in our high schools and middle schools across California.

“I’m grateful to the inspiring voices that have pushed this conversation further so we can rectify this pervasive problem under our own Capitol dome, and I’m thankful to my colleagues for working hard together to make these much-needed reforms.”

Timeline of Senate actions tackling sexual harassment

October 17 - The Senate receives a letter from We Said Enough.

October 23 - The Senate hires two independent firms:

  • The Law Offices of Amy Oppenheimer, to investigate allegations of sexual assault and harassment. 
  • CPS HR, to review our outreach and record keeping practices to improve responsiveness to third parties and staff complaints.

November 12 - Following allegations against a sitting Senator, the Senate announces all sexual harassment claims going forward will be handled by an independent investigator.

November 17 - The Senate announces a bipartisan panel of Senators and staff will select that independent investigator to handle all future complaints of and investigations into inappropriate behavior.

November 21 - Secretary of the Senate, Daniel Alvarez, sends a memo to all Senate staff containing Amy Oppenheimer’s personal cellphone number as a temporary whistleblower hotline for employees to report any misconduct. 

November 27 - The Senate Rules Committee removes Senator Mendoza from his chairmanship role on the Insurance, Banking, and Financial Institutions Committee and his membership on other boards and commissions.

December 4 – The bipartisan panel begins interviewing firms to handle those investigations.

December 14 – The Senate announces the independent firms that will handle investigations going forward, and its partnership with WEAVE. Also, it is announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, will hold a series of hearings on legal issues regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. 

January 3

  • Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announce the establishment of the Joint Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response, a subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Rules Committee.  The committee is tasked with creating a bicameral set of additional reforms to improve how the Legislature addresses the issue of sexual harassment and how it can better protect those who report harassment or abuse.
  • The Senate officially enters into a two-year partnership with WEAVE to provide confidential, independent, and trauma-informed counseling to all Senate staff, including interns. 

January 11 – The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson held a hearing entitled: Justice for Victims: Re-Examining California's Legal Standards for Sexual Harassment

January 18 - The Senate and Assembly receive proposals from three companies to conduct a climate survey of legislative staff.  A vendor is expected to be selected by early February. 

January 24 – The Joint Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response held its first hearing entitled: Best Practices for Changing Culture on Sexual Harassment

January 30 – Senate passes whistleblower protection bill SB 419 (Portantino).

February 1 – Senate passes whistleblower protection bill AB 403 (Melendez).