Bill that protects victims of sexual harassment gets bipartisan support on the House floor

A bill that protects victims of sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination passed the House floor unanimously late Thursday night. The House voted 67-0 in support of HB 21, which prevents an employer from forcing a nondisclosure agreement on an employee who is settling over sexual harassment, discrimination or retaliation. Most cases never reach the courts, said Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, during the House floor discussion. Hochman-Vigil also said that more often than not the victim is no longer employed and cannot get a new job and needs to reach the settlement for financial survival. Proponents of the bill said during committee hearings that the bill really protects future potential victims and that enabling victims to speak about what happened to them can prevent serial abusers.

Pregnant Worker Accommodation easily advances from Senate panel

A bill that would protect pregnant workers passed 6-0 in the Senate Public Affairs Committee in a jovial, bipartisan mood Thursday night. HB 25 amends the state Human Rights Act to protect pregnant workers or new moms from discriminatiom. 

Democratic Sen. Liz Stefanics, of Cerillos, and Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey, of Albuquerque, are sponsoring the bill. The accommodations the bill allows for are things such as water at a workstation, extra bathroom breaks and a stool. Also, an employer could not force a pregnant worker to take time off from work due to pregnancy. The bill passed the House floor 65-0 last week.

Human trafficking bill with broad support moves forward

A bill that would increase penalties for human trafficking received bipartisan support in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. HB 237, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Georgene Louis and Liz Thomson, both of Albuquerque, passed 10-1. Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, voted against it. Louis and Thomson invited victims of trafficking to speak on behalf of the bill.

Bill to stop serial sexual harassers at work advanced Monday

A bill that advocates say would reduce serial sexual harassers in the workplace passed by a 9-3 vote along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee Monday, and at least one Republican legislator worried the bill goes too far. Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, opposed HB 21, which prohibits a private employer from enforcing a nondisclosure act when the employer settles a sexual harassment case with an employee. Nibert said he didn’t like the fact that the bill meant that the government is regulating private business, especially since the government is excluded from the bill. But Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, who is sponsoring the bill, said Sen. Sander Rue, D-Albuquerque, is carrying a bill that would address government employers. Nibert continued to express opposition to the bill.

Bill aimed at preventing domestic terrorism advances

The state House Judiciary Committee on Monday approved legislation aimed at preventing domestic terrorism in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in August at an El Paso Walmart that targeted Hispanics. The panel also advanced legislation toughening the state’s cyberterrorism law. Supporters of House Bill 269, which resulted from discussions among New Mexico officials about how to guard the state against such an incident, argued it will offer prosecutors the proper legal tools in a case of domestic terrorism. The bill, which now advances to the House floor, defines the state crime of terrorism and would make it a second-degree felony to commit an act meant to intimidate or coerce the public, including mass violence in a public place, or an attempt to influence policy or politics using intimidation or coercion. Under the measure, it also would become a second-degree felony to make or possess a weapon “designed or intended to cause death or serious physical injury by the release, dissemination or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals” or biological or radioactive weapons.

Bill to protect pregnant workers passes House

HB 25, which advocates say protects pregnant workers from discrimination, passed the House unanimously on Thursday. There was very little debate around the bill on the House floor. House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, a Republican from Artesia, asked how the bill had changed since last year, when Rep. Gail Chasey, a Democrat from Albuquerque, brought a pregnant worker accommodation bill to the Legislature. Chasey said that she worked with the New Mexico Hospitality Association and New Mexico Counties so that the bill now falls under the Human Rights Act. The effect of that is that if a worker feels they have been discriminated against, they must take their case to the state’s Human Rights Commission before seeking a lawsuit.

Committee passes bill to eliminate NDAs for sexual harassment settlements

A bill to protect victims of sexual harassment in the workplace passed easily with a 5-0 vote in the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Tuesday. HB 21, sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, seeks to protect victims of sexual harassment in the workplace by allowing the victim to decide if she or he wants a nondisclosure agreement when the employee and employer settle. Hochman-Vigil said the bill had been amended to reflect that the bill would only apply to private employers because a different bill applies to public employers. There was no opposition to the bill. Expert witness Erika Anderson, an Albuquerque-based attorney, said most sexual harassment cases settle and that often the victim feels forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Bill to license massage therapy businesses aimed to stop ‘nefarious’ activities

A bill that looks innocuous – requiring massage parlor establishments to be licensed – could have big consequences. Although no one knows how many massage parlors are legitimate and how many are not, the ones that are not often serve as fronts for human trafficking, say authorities and sexual assault advocates. The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department estimates there are about 8,200 massage therapists in the state and there could be as many as 1,500 establishments that would need to apply for licensure if the bill passes. Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, is sponsoring HB 155. “We recognize there are thousands of fabulous massage therapists all over the state, but there are a few that are not in the business for massage therapy,” Trujillo told NM Political Report.

Bill for pregnant workers passes committee with support from all sides

A bill to support pregnant workers brought both abortion rights and anti-abortion groups together and passed unanimously 13-0 in the House Judiciary Committee Friday. HB 25, the Pregnant Worker Accommodation bill, aims to protect pregnant workers and allow new moms to be able to ask for “reasonable accommodations” from an employer while pregnant or newly parenting. Advocates of the bill say those accommodations include things like asking for a stool to sit on or more bathroom breaks, additional water to drink and the ability to refrain from heavy lifting. If an employer does not comply, the pregnant worker could file a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The bill passed the House Labor, Veteran, Military Affairs Committee earlier this week.

A bill to protect pregnant workers passes first hurdle

A bill that advocates say protects pregnant workers passed unanimously through its first committee Tuesday with no opposition. HB 25, called the Pregnant Worker Accommodation Bill, went before the House Labor, Veteran, Military Affairs Committee. This isn’t the first time House committee members have heard this bill. Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the bill in past sessions, but she said the bill introduced during the 2019 session went through negotiation with the Hospitality Association and New Mexico Counties, an association that represents all 33 counties, and that took ten days. It then died on the House floor.