Calif. Assembly acts to protect harassment victims

SACRAMENTO — The state Assembly has passed a bill intended to protect victims of harassment or hate crimes by expanding their ability to file lawsuits.

The bill approved Thursday would ban a practice that requires people to sign away their right to a legal challenge.

Sponsors say many employment contracts and contracts for private schools include a mandatory arbitration clause for harassment allegations. They say it acts as a barrier to parents or employees who otherwise might pursue their claims in court.

Lawmakers who support the bill, authored by Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Saldana of San Diego, say it is needed to remedy a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

The bill prompted a heated partisan debate, with Republicans saying the change would be bad for business because it would increase litigation.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.