These landmark bills collectively will better the lives of women in our state by seeking to address two issues that disproportionately impact us: workplace sexual harassment and gun violence related to domestic violence and abuse.
Washington state may just be the best place in the nation to be a woman. Five landmark bills passed through the Washington State legislature last week – largely unchallenged – that would protect survivors of workplace sexual harassment, assault, and domestic violence.
We at the Seattle Women’s Commission now urge Gov. Jay Inslee to sign these five bills into law:
Senate Bill 6298: Adds domestic violence harassment to the list of offenses for which a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Senate Bill 6471: Develops model policies to create workplaces that are safe from sexual harassment.
Senate Bill 5996: Encourages the disclosure and discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.
Senate Bill 6313: Protects an employee’s right to file a complaint or cause of action for sexual harassment or sexual assault in mandatory employment contracts and agreements.
House Bill 2661: Protects survivors of domestic assault from employment discrimination.
These bills collectively will better the lives of women in our state by seeking to address issues that disproportionately impact us: workplace sexual harassment, discrimination, and gun violence related to domestic violence and abuse.
The three bills addressing workplace harassment can lead the nation in making workplaces more equitable for women and gender nonconforming employees. Only 2 to 3 percent of people who experience harassment formally report it for fear of retaliation. And our business competitiveness is at stake too – discrimination and unfair policies in the workplace cost corporations upward of $450 billion every year. The bills SB 6313 and SB 5996 encourage disclosure of harmful behavior in the workplace and protect employees’ rights to file a complaint. Without these protections, we believe a large number of those impacted will continue to remain silent in the face of harassment and assault.
On reducing the impact of gun violence and its negative impacts on our families, businesses and communities, SB 6298 will help keep weapons out of the hands of people who are most likely to do harm. For example, while only 10 percent of total gun violence is committed by domestic violence perpetrators, these same individuals account for 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016.
As members of the Seattle Women’s Commission, we advocate for equitable policies and programs that work to prevent violence against women, sexual assault and domestic violence. Our work promotes safe spaces and healthy relationships for women and gender nonconforming individuals. We believe these five bills will help ensure that all individuals feel safe in our communities and in their places of work. In turn, Washington will not only become the leading state in the nation for protecting women, but also one of the most attractive business environments in the country for retaining top talent.
We urge Gov. Inslee to sign these bills into law as soon as possible. In addition to thanking the primary sponsors of these bills – Sens. Manka Dhingra and Karen Keiser as well as Rep. Beth Doglio – we also urge the Legislature to continue to pass landmark bills such as these. We also recognize the critical work of nonprofit and advocacy organizations that worked tirelessly to promote these bills in Olympia, such as Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Legal Voice. By working collectively, we envision policies that empower and protect all women in our state, especially those from marginalized communities including elder women, LGBTQ individuals, women of color, immigrant women, women with disabilities, and gender nonconforming individuals.
As these bills head to Gov. Inslee’s desk to become law, we’re steps away from creating safer communities for women and domestic violence survivors across Washington state. Now is the time.