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No more suffering in silence

  • Contributed

    State Rep. Nadine Nakamura

  • Contributed

    State Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa

HONOLULU — The bipartisan Hawai‘i Women’s Legislative Caucus supported the amendment of several bills that legislators passed related to sexual harassment in the workplace and domestic violence.

They were sent to Gov. David Ige for disposition.

HB 2054, HD1, SD1 would make Hawai‘i the 14th state prohibiting employers from requiring employees to sign non-disclosure agreements as part of their employment condition or settlement of a transaction.

The catalyst for a portion of the bill related to sexual harassment was a 2019 study conducted by Safe Spaces & Workplaces of Hawai‘i.

It found that 52% of women and 42% of men experienced workplace sexual harassment while working in Hawai‘i.

A portion of the bill prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to enter a non-disclosure agreement related to sexual harassment or assault.

According to the press release, the bill prohibits retaliation against an employee for disclosing sexual harassment or assault.

The bill would make it easier for victims to come forward, according to state Rep. Dee Morikawa (District 16, Ni‘ihau, Koloa and Waimea).

“HB2054 will create safer workplaces for both men and women by breaking the culture of fear and silence that perpetuates harassment,” said Morikawa, the House majority floor leader. “Many employees are afraid to report harassment because of retaliation and victim-blaming.”

A portion of HB 2060, HD1, SD1 relates to the complexities of reporting domestic-violence claims.

The highlight in the updated proposal package includes the courts sealing any record of a denied temporary restraining order or protective order.

Under the current law, perpetrators of domestic violence can file a restraining order against the victim.

Typically, TROs from the perpetrator are denied, but the victim will still have it on his or her record under current laws.

State Rep. Nadine Nakamura (District 14, Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapa‘a, Wailua) said this bill would seal those records and help survivors be able to seek employment.

“This is a critical issue for domestic-violence survivors trying to make a new life for themselves,” Nakamura said. “If a victim has a TRO application against her on record, even if the court found it to be completely baseless, she still has to overcome discrimination and bias from future employers and landlords.”

Nanci Kreidman, the Domestic Violence Action Center CEO, said advocates seek anonymity for victims because having anything on their police records when landlords and employers conduct background checks makes obtaining housing and employment more difficult.

“It is an identifiable trend for abusers to fabricate and file petitions for restraining orders as an act of retaliation,” Kreidman said. “The presence of the record creates barriers for survivors that interfere with their capacity to live independently and become financially stable.”

The portion of SB 2638, SD2, HD3 will help ease court congestion of domestic-violence cases and ensure consequences for batterers by establishing a petty-misdemeanor offense of abuse of a family or household member.

This will allow a deferred acceptance of guilty plea for misdemeanor and petty-misdemeanor abuse of a family or household member offenses, provided that the defendant completes domestic-violence-intervention programs.

“The four bills addressing workplace safety and domestic violence on the governor’s desk are particularly important to help protect women in these very trying times,” said state Sen. Rosalyn H. Baker (District 6, South and West Maui). “The Women’s Legislative Caucus champions bills that lift women and seek to protect our vulnerable community members.”

For more information or for someone in need of assistance with domestic violence, text (605) 956-5680 or chat online at domesticviolenceactioncenter.org.

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Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.

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