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With office holiday party season underway, time to brush up on Washington’s sexual harassment laws

In many workplaces, the holiday season is synonymous with boozy office parties, where every branch of the work family comes together to celebrate a year of hard work. The uninhibited atmosphere can be a welcome pressure release valve in an otherwise stressful part of life. It’s also a ripe time for sexual harassment to occur.

So it’s a good time to brush up on sexual harassment laws in Washington state. Like other states in the wake of the Me Too movement that has taken root in recent years, Washington passed legislation aimed at protecting victims silenced by powerful employers.

Effective mid-2018, SB 5996 prohibits employers from making employment conditional on signing any document that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. However, the law does allow for such confidentiality arrangements in settlement agreements.

In other words, severance agreements, which have long been the preferred tool of employers to release all potential legal claims against their company by an outgoing worker, don’t apply in sexual harassment or assault cases in Washington.

Washington’s law is also a reminder that employees who may have rushed into signing severance agreements preventing them from discussing alleged sexual abuses since 2018 still have the right to pursue the case in court.

Knowing all of your options if such a case arises is crucial reaching the legal solution that you feel is appropriate.

Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us at if you have an L&I, workers’ comp, injury, discrimination or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.

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