Assembly Bill 1978 was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 15, according to Bloomberg BNA (9/21/16) and is geared entirely to the janitorial services industry. A 2015 PBS report titled Rape on the Night Shift shared the experiences of female janitors who are at risk for sexual harassment and assault because they tend to work in isolation, be female and may not understand their rights. The report notes that female janitors face similar risks across the US regardless of whether their employer is a small contractor or a large corporation.
A report by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education titled Race to the Bottom notes that isolation is an important factor in sexual harassment and assault.
"In a Washington state study, 85 percent of the 63 workers who were raped in the workplace were working alone (Alexander, Franklin & Wolf 1994)," the report notes. "Employers in the property services industry typically service a large number of worksites… Being isolated from co-workers and the public reduces the likelihood that anyone will intervene or serve as witnesses and allows supervisors to exert greater control over workers."
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Furthermore, the bill requires employers to distribute notices about the bill, including information about sexual harassment prevention, and provide employees with training about sexual harassment prevention.
"We have allowed these women to become targets for sexual violence by neglecting their working conditions and basic safety on the job, but we cannot ignore this threat anymore," Gonzalez said. "AB will ensure these women—too often unseen while working alone at night—finally begin to receive the transparency and protection from rape and sexual assault they need to be kept safe."
Lawsuits have been filed against janitorial companies who failed to protect employees from sexual harassment or assault.