California Bill Tweaks Sexual Harassment Law To Account For Venture Capital

Following numerous public revelations about bad behavior in the tech industry, a Golden State senator wants to ensure that founders and funders are in line with the law.

Last week, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced a bill to the California legislature that targets sexual harassment in venture capital, several instances of which have recently made waves across the state and country. The proposed SB 224, which was re-purposed from a previous bill, would seek to tackle the inappropriate, sexually harassing behavior that many women founders and entrepreneurs endure by adding a single word to the state’s current law in this area: “investor.”

Jackson, who represents California’s 19th District, commented by phone that the bill would “clarify the language” in California’s civil rights act by updating its list of specific relationships that are subject to sexual harassment protections. “We simply want to add investors to that list, and acknowledge that this simply unlawful behavior is subject to claims of sexual harassment and damages,” Jackson said.

The state’s civil rights act already establishes certain behavioral boundaries for employers, teachers, lawyers, social workers, real estate agents, dentists, and various other professional roles–all of which frequently create unequal footing between parties, the senator pointed out. “These are relationships where there is an imbalance of power that could result in sexual harassment,” she said.

As the nation’s startup- and funding-rich tech industry has grown up, imbalances have also appeared in the numbers for the industry’s men and women, with regard to both headcounts and capital. “We’ve been asking for some time, ‘Why is this industry so male-dominated?'” Jackson said. But neither company reps nor algorithms could fully account for those gaps.

This article is by Janet Burns @ Forbes