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New laws strengthen employees’ civil rights

HONOLULU — The Hawai‘i Civil Rights Commission in the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations announced two new laws that affect employers and strengthen Hawai‘i’s nondiscrimination laws.

Act 17 is a new law prohibiting employers from requiring an employee to enter into a nondisclosure agreement pertaining to sexual harassment or sexual assault as a condition of employment.

Confidential settlement agreements are not prohibited. Act 17 also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for disclosing or discussing sexual harassment or sexual assault.

“Hawaii joins 15 other states that have enacted laws to preclude non-disclosure agreements that prevent disclosure of sexual assault or sexual harassment as a condition of employment,” said commission Executive Director William Hoshijo.

“Unfortunately, such agreements have enabled serial harassers to perpetrate unlawful sexual harassment.”

Act 51 amended an existing law and limits the age of convictions that may be considered in employment decisions. The new law reduces the time period that convictions can be considered from 10 years, excluding periods of incarceration, to seven years for felony convictions and five years for misdemeanor convictions, excluding periods of incarceration.

Other portions of the law have not changed: An employer may only ask about and consider convictions after a conditional offer of employment is made, and then can only consider convictions that have a rational relationship to a specific job.

Inquiry into and consideration of records of arrest without conviction continue to be prohibited. Statutory exceptions remain unchanged for certain jobs in education, banking and state employment, as well as for other types of employers as specifically provided by law.

For more information about these laws or the HCRC see labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc/.
Source: The Garden Island

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